Indiana women’s basketball is no powerhouse historically. Yet in head coach Teri Moren’s tenure, the program has steadily built to achieve new heights never before reached, or for heights that have been reached, the first time in a long time. The Hoosiers clinched a share of the Big Ten regular season title with an 83-60 win over Purdue on Sunday, the culmination of what Moren has built.
“A lot of credit goes to Coach Moren, Grace (Berger) and Mack (Holmes) — they built this program,” junior guard Sydney Parrish said after the game. “They built it from the bottom. The staff, Grace, Mackenzie, the Tyra Busses and Ali Patbergs, they’re the ones who did it. We just kept chugging away.”
Graduate guard Grace Berger is the embodiment of the program’s rise to the top. In Berger’s freshman season, Indiana finished 8-10 in Big Ten play. That team lost in the second round of both the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA tournament, but it was just the beginning for what was to come.
The next season in 2019-20 saw improvement, a 13-5 Big Ten record and 24-8 overall. However, it again lost in the second round of the Big Ten tournament to a Maryland program which continuously dominated Indiana. Due to COVID-19, there was no NCAA tournament to be held.
2020-21 was the season Indiana had dreamed of and been capable of. It went 16-2 in Big Ten play and 21-6 overall, but the alluring Big Ten championship was still unattainable. Maryland bested Indiana by going 17-1 in the Big Ten, and a shocking loss to a mediocre Michigan State team sent the Hoosiers home early from the Big Ten tournament. However, Indiana made a run to its first ever NCAA Elite Eight and the program’s successes continued to build.
Last season was plagued with injuries which produced a record regression — 11-5 in the Big Ten. Nonetheless, Indiana achieved a 3-seed in the NCAA tournament, its highest ever, and made a Sweet Sixteen appearance. Another good season but no hardware to show for it.
Finally, everything has come together for Berger and Indiana this season. Sunday’s win marked win number 16 in Big Ten play to just one loss, and a share of the Big Ten title — a feat Indiana has failed to accomplish since 1982-83 in the Big Ten’s inaugural women’s basketball season. For Berger to achieve it on Senior Day, it was a moment in the making.
“Just slowly building every single year and the new teams,” Berger said after the game. “The new people that came in this year have been the hardest working team in the Big Ten and in the country. You have to credit obviously the staff, but those players who came before us, too.”
It started earlier for Moren. She inherited a team that had gone 5-11 in Big Ten play and 21-13 overall, mostly due to a weaker schedule. In her first season in 2014-15, Moren’s team regressed — 4-14 in conference play and 15-16 overall, even losing to Moren’s prior team, Indiana State University, at home.
But Moren continued to build the program. Since her first season, all but one of her teams have owned a winning conference record — Berger’s freshman season. Every single team has won 20 or more games. And now, finally, Moren has coached a regular season Big Ten champion.
“Just really proud of this group,” Moren said. “I’m really, really happy for not just this program, but for those kids in the locker room.”
Reflecting on Berger, Moren choked up emotionally speaking on what Berger has endured in her career to get to the championship moment.
“The work that it takes to accomplish something like this is not easy,” Moren said while holding back tears. “You have to have belief, and six years ago she believed in this program. She believed in me and the vision. And for that, I’ll always be grateful, because that’s what it takes.”
At 26-1 and ranked No. 2, Indiana isn’t just a Big Ten powerhouse, but rather it is becoming a national powerhouse. For Moren’s Hoosiers, the Big Ten regular season may be only the start of both a special season and a special future.
Business picks right back up in a week. In order to clinch the Big Ten title outright, Indiana will need Iowa to lose one more game. If it does not do so at No. 9 Maryland on Tuesday, then a matchup in Iowa City between the Hoosiers and Hawkeyes will determine whether or not the title is split.
“As Grace said, we’ll celebrate tonight and then tomorrow we’ll turn our attention to a really good Iowa team,” Moren said. “That’s just what we do.”
Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Sebree (@mattsebree) and columnist Matt Press (@MattPress23) for updates throughout the Indiana women’s basketball season.