Let’s face it, anything less than that might have been a disappointment. At this stage of the season — given Indiana women’s basketball’s billing as the No. 4 team in the nation, blowing out bottom three teams in the Big Ten is more so a presumption than a possibility.
All due respect to the state of Minnesota and the flagship university’s women’s basketball program, but the Golden Gophers are just not a very good team. If the 2-8 conference record, now 2-9 after the Hoosiers’ 77-54 victory, wasn’t any indication of its woes, look no further than Minnesota’s 18 first half turnovers.
Some were a direct result of stellar defensive play from Indiana, but many arose from flat out ugly attempts at offense. Especially in the first half, Minnesota players sailed passes high and wide, miscommunicated on dribble handoffs and did just about everything to avoid generating success.
“We’re mindful this is a very young Minnesota team and with that comes some hiccups and learning,” head coach Teri Moren said after the game. “(Indiana wasn’t) down there in the locker room high fiving. We didn’t play well in our opinion.”
Various Minnesota offensive possessions in the first half, namely the pair of airballs in the first 90 seconds, resembled my middle school rec-league squad which was as disjointed as they come. The Hoosiers aren’t off the hook though. They were able to cruise to a win primarily due to an obvious edge in talent, but Wednesday night was arguably one of Indiana’s sloppiest performances of conference play.
Maybe they just played down to the level of an inferior opponent? Perhaps the comically elevated floor of Williams Arena in Minneapolis gave Indiana an unexpected spike in elevation. Whatever it was, the Hoosiers played far from perfect.
Case in point, Indiana’s third quarter abomination. It came out of the halftime break sleepwalking — passes were off, shots couldn’t fall and defensive assignments were continually blown. Minnesota’s spry nucleus of underclassmen took advantage and gained a 20-17 lead in the period.
The Hoosiers’ futility out of the half, and even at times in the fourth quarter, presented a double-edged sword. While the lack of energy and grit was worrying, it’s worth something that Indiana can seemingly take five minutes off and still win the game by 23 points.
Even through those stretches of stagnation, senior forward Mackenzie Holmes could always be counted on to turn things around in a heartbeat. She paced the Hoosiers in points with 28 on a ridiculous 12-14 from the field. Junior guard Sydney Parrish showcased her reliability as well, notching 23 points of her own thanks in large part to a 3-4 night from deep.
Parrish’s offensive versatility was especially prominent, as she was able to spot up and knock down threes in addition to driving and creating her own shots. The Hoosiers’ combined 17 turnovers stick out on the stat sheet, and Moren stressed the fact that taking care of the ball has to be better moving forward.
It wasn’t exactly a traditional offensive night for Indiana, though. Arguably its two most volatile scorers outside of Holmes — graduate guard Grace Berger and freshman guard Yarden Garzon — combined for a paltry 6 points against the Gophers.
One of the bigger storylines coming into the contest was the return of senior guard Sara Scalia, who had been a star for Minnesota in her three previous seasons. Scalia was initially welcomed with cheers upon entering the game, but as things wore on, she was subject to boos and derision from the fans who supported her endlessly in the past.
“We knew this was going to be fun for her and a good environment, but I was disappointed by the Minnesota fans,” Parrish said. “She did a lot for (Minnesota) and it just made me really upset to see that.”
Scalia had a quiet outing, scoring just 10 points on 3-10 shooting, but her evolution in the 40 minutes was noteworthy. With step back threes and highly contested drives, she initially had clear intentions of showing Minnesotans what they were missing. When those methods proved ineffective, she stepped out of the limelight and made real contributions on defense and off the ball.
The adaptation was impressive, and also evident of the wily veteran persona that embodies this Indiana team. In a game where so much went awry for both teams, the Hoosiers stayed composed throughout. Even through the perceived shortcomings, I can’t emphasize enough that Indiana won by more than 20 points.
Most notably, if it wasn’t transparent from Moren’s comments, Indiana isn’t satisfied. And it shouldn’t be. There’s roughly three weeks left in the regular season, and it still has to face No. 6 Iowa twice.
Still, like everyone expected, the Hoosiers crushed a young Minnesota team. I think we can leave things at that.