Indiana Daily Student

COLUMN: Indiana women’s basketball stuck to its brand in 91-58 win over Fairfield

<p>Senior guard Grace Berger plays defense Dec. 9, 2021 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Indiana defeated Fairfield University 91-58. </p>

Senior guard Grace Berger plays defense Dec. 9, 2021 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Indiana defeated Fairfield University 91-58.

There’s a lot that goes into the Indiana women’s basketball viewing experience. The positives being a usually stout defense, occasional lights-out shooting performances and a win. The negatives being turnovers, foul trouble and a lack of offensive production from its bench.

Indiana decided to play all of its hits, positive and negative, in its 91-58 win over Fairfield University on Thursday night in Bloomington. 

During Big Ten Media Days in October, head coach Teri Moren said “stingy defense” is part of her team’s DNA. Indiana takes pride in its ability to frustrate teams into misses and mistakes.

Following so-so games against Stanford University and North Carolina State University, Indiana found itself needing to re-establish itself as a defensive power. The team had something to prove. Subsequently, Indiana held Penn State to just 40 points Monday and only allowed 58 to Fairfield on Thursday.

Women's basketball: [No. 10 Indiana women’s basketball routs Fairfield University 91-58, moves to 7-2]

The Hoosiers had a distinct size advantage over the Stags, whose tallest players stand at 6-foot-1-inch. Indiana’s starting forwards, junior Mackenzie Holmes and senior Aleksa Gulbe, both stand at 6-foot-3. 

Indiana outrebounded Fairfield 44-19 thanks in part to its size. While it played the role of Goliath, its David was quite slingless. When Fairfield was able to get shots up, one of four possible outcomes followed:

  • The ball ricocheted right off the rim.

  • It swirled around the rim a few tantalizing times before unceremoniously falling out and right into the Hoosiers’ hands.

  • It met the hands of Holmes.

  • It actually went in, which only happened 37.5% of the time.

Fairfield made a vain attempt to counter Indiana’s size. The team’s three 6-foot-1-inch players to take the floor combined for 25 points, which paled in comparison to Indiana’s duo of Holmes and Gulbe combining for 44 points.

Fairfield senior forward Andrea Hernangomez pressed Holmes in the paint on defense, getting in the junior’s face any chance she could. Holmes is more than just a big and simply finessed Hernangomez in response.

Women's basketball: [Grace Berger bounces back to lead Indiana women’s basketball past Fairfield]

But by no means did this mean Indiana was one-dimensional offensively. Senior guard Grace Berger, who had acted more as a facilitator than a scorer as of late, rediscovered her offensive form. Berger finished the night with 19 points, tying her season-high from Nov. 14 against the University of Kentucky.

Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, mistakes have been part of their brand as well this year. They had 19 turnovers and 17 personal fouls Thursday night. The Hoosiers were lucky they played sound defense, only allowing the Stags to score 18 points off of those turnovers.

Fairfield didn’t exactly help itself either, committing 23 personal fouls of its own. When Fairfield got a chance on offense late in the second quarter thanks to a foul from Berger, Hernangomez committed her own foul to snuff it out. 

Finally, Indiana played its greatest hit. Its bench’s inability to score is Indiana’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Only 15 of its 91 points came from the bench, with 8 of those coming in the fourth quarter when the game had already been won.

The good parts of Indiana’s brand proved more than enough to best Fairfield, but barring significant change, better teams will exploit its weaknesses down the line. Indiana was lucky it didn’t face one of those Thursday.

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