Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Indiana women’s basketball’s starting five was able to put away a weaker lineup tonight well before the final buzzer sounded.
Indiana’s starting lineup ended up scoring 94.4% of the Hoosiers’ 72 points on the night. Junior forward Mackenzie Holmes and senior forward Aleksa Gulbe both finished with 22 points to lead the team. Indiana’s bench, which did not fully enter the game until late in the fourth quarter to finish off what was left of Norfolk State University, scored 4 points in a combined 49 minutes.
Indiana only got 2 points out of its bench in the first half, which came off free-throws from sophomore forward Kiandra Browne filling in for Holmes. The bench’s other 2 points were also free-throw attempts, though they came from freshman guard Kaitlin Peterson.
This past Saturday, Indiana’s bench also scored just four of the team’s 88 points in 33 combined minutes against the University of Kentucky.
Indiana’s starters are dominant, which they proved last season and have continued to do so through their three games so far this season. If I had to pick Indiana’s starters in a war of attrition against most other starting fives around the country, I’d struggle to come up with an answer and would probably just shrug.
Holmes is dominant down low, senior guard Grace Berger can pull off every move in the book and graduate student Nicole Cardaño-Hillary has left many a defense searching for answers once she gets into a 3-point groove.
Additionally, Gulbe has added more to her offensive game in the offseason and led the team in 3-point percentage Tuesday with a 3-4 clip.
But what if any of those five aren’t available for some reason this season? Can the Hoosiers rely on their bench? Can their style sustain itself throughout the regular season?
To the bench’s credit, there is a lot that doesn’t make its way into a box score. For instance, Browne played with tenacity on defense against Norfolk State on Tuesday and Kentucky this past Saturday.
Watching them play, it’s evident they do so with the same competitive fire Indiana’s starters bring to the table. The lack of production doesn’t feel like it’s from a lack of effort and they’re also fairly young. Peterson is a freshman, and guard Chloe Moore-McNeil and Browne are both sophomores.
However, this is a bench with some experience to it as well. Guard Caitlin Hose is a senior who transferred in this offseason, guard Grace Waggoner is a junior and center Arielle Wisne is a redshirt sophomore.
If ever there was a game to insert a bench for some additional experience, it was this one. That only truly happened with just under two minutes left in a game Indiana had put away six minutes earlier.
These are young players who should develop with time and older players trying to find some minutes behind Indiana’s starters. If I were Indiana, I’d opt to give them a few more chances in games where some wiggle room can be exercised.