When Steph Curry and the 3-point centralized Golden State Warriors broke out and started a dynasty in the NBA, it not only changed the league, but it revolutionized all levels of basketball. While a couple of years late to the trend, Indiana women’s basketball has finally done so too.
The Hoosiers shot 12-of-25 from three in their 86-49 season-opening win over the University of Vermont. Indiana’s 12 makes are tied for third-most in program history – four behind the record of 16 set in 2014.
In the past few seasons, Indiana’s perimeter shooting has been below average in the Big Ten. Recognizing this problem, head coach Teri Moren hit the recruiting trail hard to find a solution.
Indiana’s newcomers solved that problem in their first appearance as Hoosiers. Freshman guard Yarden Garzon shot five-for-eight from deep, and senior guard Sara Scalia shot three-of-six.
There’s no denying the improvements the newcomers provide in shooting from deep. However, Moren also attributes the big shooting night to the team’s mentality.
“You give up what could be a good shot for a great shot,” Moren said. “You have to have unselfish players that want to share the ball.”
In addition to Scalia and Garzon, four additional Hoosiers each sank a three of their own – graduate guard Grace Berger, junior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil and sophomore guards Sydney Parrish and Kaitlin Peterson.
Not only was the amount of makes a significant increase from previous years, but both the 25 attempts and steep efficiency were leaps ahead. Indiana shot 11 more threes and shot 15 percentage points higher than last season’s marks.
Vermont returned four starters from a squad which held opponents to 25.9% from deep last season. Indiana’s 48% performance from three tied for second among single game performances against Vermont last season, and its 12 makes tied for first.
This level of shooting is likely not sustainable as a collective, but it does give promise to the future. Tonight’s performance showcased that more than one Hoosier can get hot from behind the arc on a nightly basis.
The increased threat behind the arc provides another level Indiana can score from. More importantly, it makes other scoring areas even more dangerous.
With shooters who require attention and respect defensively, the Hoosiers can more effectively pound the paint and let senior forward Mackenzie Holmes and others get better looks without being swarmed.
“This team is different, and it’s been a lot of fun,” Holmes said. “I think that we have so many different lineups that work and so many different options. There’s so much firepower.”
Additionally, harder closeouts will allow Indiana’s guards to sell pump fakes and create open lanes to drive for a score or distribute the ball. As a mid-range savant, Berger should excel at these opportunities.
“I think our kids get a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment in being able to play like that,” Moren said. “(They can) play freely, play clean, but also share the ball and put each other in a position to get an open three.”
Indiana is coming off an Elite Eight appearance in 2020-21 followed by a Sweet Sixteen in 2021-22 – that was with sub-par perimeter shooting. If the Hoosiers have the potential to shoot at this level, combined with their defensive prowess and strong paint presence, their ceiling is higher than ever.
This is just one game, however. As Moren said, Indiana won’t be able to shoot this well every night.
Despite the unsustainable high standards that the Hoosiers set for themselves, surpassing last season’s game-high in just the season-opener is an encouraging sight. Now, the persisting question is if Indiana can stay sharp from outside against the University of Massachusetts Lowell on Friday night.
Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Sebree (@mattsebree) and columnist Matt Press (@MattPress23) for updates throughout the Indiana women’s basketball season.