No. 11 Indiana women’s basketball tipped off its season with an 86-49 victory over the University of Vermont on Tuesday at Simon Skodt Assembly Hall. After a slow start, the Hoosiers cleaned up their mistakes and were able to blow out their American East Conference opponent.
Before the media timeout at the halfway mark of the first quarter, Indiana already committed four turnovers that Vermont capitalized on to take an early lead. With 2:55 left in the first quarter, the Catamounts held a 12-11 advantage.
Coming out of the first mid-quarter break, the Hoosiers only turned the ball over twice and went on a 9-0 run to close out the first period 20-12. Five of the points in the run came from junior guard Sydney Parrish and graduate student forward Alyssa Geary. The pair of players were the first substitutes for Indiana, and both were making their debuts in Bloomington.
Parrish transferred to Indiana from the University of Oregon over the offseason after being named the 2020 Indiana Miss Basketball her senior year of high school. She shot 35% from deep in her two seasons with the Ducks and showed off her shooting early Tuesday, scoring her first points on a 3-pointer and finishing with eight points. In addition to her scoring, head coach Teri Moren said she was pleased with how Parrish played defensively, getting a block, four steals and taking a charge.
“We have always and will always hang our hat on the defensive side of the ball and so she knew she had to get better in order to get out on the floor and help us,” Moren said. “One thing that Syd is is she's a great communicator. You know, she's constantly talking.”
Geary is also a transfer, coming to Bloomington after four seasons at Providence College. She scored four points and pulled down four rebounds while providing good defense in the post, particularly when senior forward Mackenzie Holmes was on the bench.
[Related: Mackenzie Holmes is fully healthy and ready to lead Indiana women's basketball in 2022-23]
In addition to Parrish and Geary, Indiana had five other newcomers play their first minutes for the Cream and Crimson on Tuesday, headlined by freshman starting guard Yarden Garzon, a native of Ra’anana, Israel. In her first college game ever, Garzon tied Vermont senior guard Emma Utterback as the game’s leading scorer with 19 points.
“(Garzon’s) not a typical freshman, she plays like a pro out there,” graduate student guard Grace Berger said. “She's someone that's very easy to play with, that’s really fun to play with. We aren't surprised by it, but we definitely don't think of her as a typical freshman.”
Garzon’s first bucket was a 3-pointer midway through the second quarter to give Indiana a double-digit lead for good. She followed it up with four more makes from deep throughout the game to help the Hoosiers reach 12 total 3-pointers — more than the team made in any single game last season.
Although Parrish, Geary and Garzon played well in their first games in Bloomington, Moren said she thought the team — particularly the newcomers — could have played better defensively.
“We certainly have some work to do defensively especially with some of our new our new faces that are trying to understand our defensive system,” Moren said.
Making sure everybody knows what they are doing defensively requires a good amount of practice and chemistry, and Moren said the team is focused on improving that side of the ball.
Despite Moren’s displeasure with the team’s performance at one end of the court, Indiana was able to cruise to the 37-point victory and was never significantly challenged by Vermont after the first quarter.
Behind Garzon, Holmes scored 16 points and Berger scored 14 points and recorded eight assists and eight rebounds, both game-high marks. Senior guard Sara Scalia, a transfer from Minnesota, was the only other Hoosier in double figures with 11 points.
Indiana is not the same team as it was the past couple of years — Tuesday was the first game without former players Ali Patberg, Nicole Cardaño-Hillary or Aleksa Gulbe since 2017. However, Holmes said the new players will add levels to the Hoosiers that were not there in the past.
“We have a lot of different pieces, but I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. I think it's exciting,” Holmes said. “The pieces that we have this year — they're versatile. They're dynamic. So it's really exciting to practice and keep getting better every day and now we're finally getting to games so it should be a lot of fun to see how things unfold.”
Following the season-opening win, No. 11 Indiana will stay in Bloomington to play another member of the American East Conference, the University of Massachusetts Lowell at 7 p.m. Friday.
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