Following a season-opening win over the University of Vermont, No. 11 Indiana women’s basketball will host the University of Massachusetts Lowell at 7 p.m. Friday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. UMass Lowell — like Vermont — is a member of the America East Conference and enters the matchup after an 81-53 loss to Boston College on its opening night.
The River Hawks went 11-16 overall and 8-9 in conference play — including two losses to Vermont — last season before getting knocked out in the quarterfinals of the America East Tournament.
Junior guard Jaliena Sanchez was UMass Lowell’s leading scorer in the season opener and figures to lead the team in scoring this season. She is the only returning player who averaged more than seven points last season, but only played in three games before missing the rest of the year with an injury.
Slowing down Sanchez will be Indiana’s primary goal in Friday’s matchup. A combination of backcourt players senior Sara Scalia, junior Chloe Moore-McNeil and Grace Berger will be tasked with guarding her. After the win over Vermont, Indiana head coach Teri Moren said the newcomers to the team — three transfers and four freshmen — needed to improve defensively.
“There were a few slippages in there, rotations missed,” Moren said. “We’ve just got to keep doing what we're doing and that's spending time in practice and just making sure that they're where they need to be inside of our defensive, not just principles, but system.”
Although the new Hoosiers are still learning how to play in Moren’s defense, they have brought two things sorely missed last season: depth and shooting.
Indiana played all 13 of its dressed players Friday — only junior forward Kiandra Browne didn’t play as she sat out with a thumb injury. Ten players had registered minutes, and all had scored by the end of the third quarter.
Last season, Indiana often only played six players in late-game situations, leaving little opportunity for substitutions to allow starters a break. Repeatedly throughout the preseason and early season, Moren has said she feels the team has more than five starting-caliber players, and they could switch lineups and rotations throughout the season.
Those new players who added depth to the team have also helped Indiana’s shooting from 3-point range so far. Last season, the Hoosiers’ high-mark for made 3-pointers was 10, which they achieved once on Feb. 9 against Illinois.
In its first game this year, Indiana made 12 shots on 25 attempts from range, led by freshman guard Yarden Garzon. Garzon started against Vermont — her first collegiate game — but she is from Israel and played professionally there before coming to the United States. She scored a team-high 19 points and shot 5-of-8 on 3-pointers.
“(Garzon’s) not a typical freshman, she plays like a pro out there,” graduate student guard Grace Berger said after the game Tuesday. “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.”
The Hoosiers and River Hawks have faced off once before, with Indiana winning 79-45 in 2016 in Bloomington. Indiana tips off against UMass Lowell at 7 p.m. Friday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
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