Coming off a dominant 111-68 victory in its lone exhibition against Northwood University on Nov. 1, Indiana women’s basketball is set to tip off its regular season Thursday. The Hoosiers are set to welcome Eastern Illinois University to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in the first meeting between the schools since the 1995-96 season.
While Indiana had no problems handling Northwood, its defense provided cause for concern for Indiana head coach Teri Moren.
Moren said Wednesday that her expectations for freshmen guards Julianna LaMendola and Lenée Beaumont, sophomore guard Lexus Bargesser and sophomore forward Lilly Meister were to be better than they were defensively against Northwood. After dominating the Timberwolves in the first half, the Hoosiers outscored them by just 4 points.
Although each starter had a team plus/minus greater than 47 against Northwood, the second unit’s highest was five. The pair of freshmen — LaMendola and Beaumont — had a team-worst minus 9 and minus 16, respectively.
While the freshmen are both set to make their regular season debuts Thursday, LaMendola has “been out” since pulling her calf during shootaround prior to taking on Northwood and will be a “game-time decision,” Moren said.
Notching 111 points in its exhibition game, Indiana showed there will likely be no shortage of offense this season. After shooting 63% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc against Northwood, the offense has seemingly been the least of the Hoosiers’ concerns.
“We really have talked nonstop about the defensive side of the ball since we finished that exhibition game,” Moren said.
While they lost just one impactful player from last season in Grace Berger, the Hoosiers’ defense has been worrisome even before the less-than-stellar showing in the exhibition contest.
“I’ve been concerned about (the defense) since we started in our closed scrimmages that we’ve had,” Moren said. “It’s been the side of the ball where I have the most concern, and I still do.”
Eastern Illinois enters Thursday’s contest coming off a season-opening defeat at the hands of IUPUI on Monday. Freshman guard Lalani Ellis notched 21 points in her collegiate debut and was one of four Panthers in double figures.
Although the two squads haven’t played each other in nearly 28 years, a familiar face will grace the opposing sidelines Thursday.
Eastern Illinois head coach Matt Bollant is in his seventh season at the helm of the Panthers. Bollant was an assistant coach at Indiana from 2000-02, helping coach the Hoosiers to the 2002 Big Ten Tournament championship. His last coaching stop came at Illinois where he compiled a 61-94 record over five seasons, going 1-6 against Indiana.
The Hoosiers and the Panthers are set to square off at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall with Moren looking to win her 400th career game as a head coach. The contest will be available to stream on Big Ten+.