She was due.
No. 6 Indiana women’s basketball senior guard Sara Scalia endured a brutal shooting slump where she didn’t crack double-digit points for a month. Against No. 13 Michigan on Monday night, though, Scalia played with the confidence in herself that head coach Teri Moren had been searching for.
The result? A 92-83 win on the road that never looked particularly close.
Indiana’s shot — especially from beyond the arc — was the story of the team at the outset of the season. Contrary to the bruising and iso-centric playstyle that had characterized Moren’s past teams, the additions of Scalia, junior guard Sydney Parrish and freshman guard Yarden Garzon ushered in more tempo on the offensive end.
The trio of flamethrowers, along with another capable shooter in junior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil, beat up early season opposition with a blitzkrieg of 3-point connections. Guarding the Hoosiers was a 40-minute nightmare that poor mid-major teams were ruthlessly subjected to.
It’s since been a bit more turbulent. Over a three-game stretch from Dec. 29 to Jan. 8, the Hoosiers failed to shoot above 25% from deep. If you can believe it, the shooting outings were even uglier than the numbers suggest. Scarily enough, only one of those games resulted in a loss, which is Indiana’s sole defeat of the season.
The ability to win in spite of subpar shooting performances has been impressive. What was evident against the Wolverines, though, was how downright absurd they are when the shots are falling consistently. We’ve seen it sparingly this season.
Parrish’s 3-point prowess propelled the Hoosiers to a blowout win over the University of North Carolina in early December, and more recently, a 40% team effort from range helped edge then-No. 9 Maryland 68-61.
Scalia spearheaded the 3-point barrage on Monday. Her 19 points were the most in her Hoosier career, and it truly couldn’t have come at a better time. Her struggles haven’t been magnified due to the team’s success, but it had been clear she wasn’t herself.
Aggressive drives to the basket and patented downtown jumpers appeared to alleviate the frustration that had been palpable in previous stretches. Aside from Scalia, five other Hoosiers finished in double-digits.
The diversity of the offense is something that can carry this team to wins of much more importance than one on a frigid January Monday night in Ann Arbor. Graduate guard Grace Berger has certainly quelled any doubts about her health after a strong 10-point, six rebound outing where she completely took over on a handful of possessions.
Turnaround jumpers? Slicing through the belly of the defense? Slick crossovers into nifty dishes for her teammates? You name it, Berger did it.
Berger’s running mate, senior forward Mackenzie Holmes, cruised to another 20-point double-double — a virtually gamely occurrence for the star center. For only the third time this season, Indiana surrendered at least 80 points. But it didn’t matter.
In a game where both teams went on scorching hot runs, the Hoosiers were scalding. Simply put, they were better.
Even losing the battle of points in the paint was irrelevant. When Indiana is clicking offensively, there are few teams in the country that can slow them down. Not even the Wolverines, the No. 2 ranked defense in the Big Ten, could keep the Hoosiers’ scorers at bay.
Given Michigan’s reputation as a stout defensive team, Indiana turned in what may have been its best and most complete offensive showing of the season. While the defense lacked at times — two Wolverines finished with at least 20 points — the buckets had to be earned. Nothing was given.
The Hoosiers’ 18-1 start is the best in program history, taking down the 1971-72 team’s distinction. If you have some time, I highly suggest perusing through that schedule. I can hardly fathom the hysteria and mayhem that was Hanover College after the Hoosiers stormed in to stun the Panthers 36-29.
Indiana has certainly come a long way from losses to Immaculata University. Now, it feels like I’ve typed this a half dozen times this season, but Moren and company turn to perhaps the biggest challenge of the season to date.
No. 2 Ohio State, who will be looking to bounce back after a loss to No. 10 Iowa, are an imposing foe. If Indiana’s shot is falling, though, watch out.