Indiana women’s basketball tipped off its regular season Thursday with a 96-43 win over Eastern Illinois University. With the victory, Indiana head coach Teri Moren attained her 400th career win.
“Stuff that I don’t pay attention to,” Moren said postgame. “The only focus I had was this being our opener and it being Eastern Illinois and us getting off to a good start.”
In the leadup to the contest, Moren expressed her concern for the Hoosiers’ defensive side of the ball. Although its defense allowed Eastern Illinois to remain in the game until halfway through the first quarter, when Indiana began to pull away. Moren explained Wednesday her team has been focusing on the defensive side of the ball since giving up 68 points to Northwood in an exhibition game Nov. 1
Preseason AP All-American graduate student forward Mackenzie Holmes established her presence in the paint early and often, scoring 8 points on 4-for-4 from the field in the first quarter.
Holmes showed her scoring versatility, scoring her points on nifty post moves while also notching points on the fast break.
While she drained her first 3-point basket with just over four minutes remaining in the opening quarter, fifth-year guard Sara Scalia nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to begin the second quarter. Although Moren explained Oct. 30 that Scalia has a newfound confidence offensively heading into the season, Scalia struggled defensively Thursday.
“We got to make sure that Sara continues to improve (defensively) and she knows that,” Moren said. “She was disappointed in not only just fouling but just giving up some direct drives to the bucket as well.”
Sophomore guard Yarden Garzon opened the contest doing a little bit of everything for the Hoosiers, tallying 7 points, six assists and four rebounds in the first half. While Garzon became a 3-point specialist in her freshman season, Moren stressed wanting to also use her in the way she used now-graduated Grace Berger — with her back to the basket.
Indiana opened the second half on a 15-3 run to extend its lead to 41 points. Despite allowing Eastern Illinois to score 8 points in the first five and a half minutes of the game, the Hoosiers held the Panthers to just 8 points in the entire third quarter.
After tallying 4 points in the first half, sophomore guard Lexus Bargesser added another 11 points in the second half to set a career-high of 15 points. Although she averaged just 2.1 points per game in 2022-23, her role is set to expand as she was the first Hoosier off the bench against the Panthers.
“The great thing about Lexi is that she can come in and change the rhythm of the game,” Moren said. “She’s gonna pick you up full court, she’s gonna provide ball pressure and then she’s a great athlete in the halfcourt as well keeping people in front of her.”
Despite sustaining a calf injury prior to taking on Northwood, freshman guard Julianna LaMendola made her Indiana debut Thursday. The 4-star recruit failed to score but grabbed five rebounds.
“She made a championship play,” Moren said. “She took a charge there at the end of the game. Jules is going to quickly learn that she can have an impact on the game other ways. Rebounding, rotating, taking charges, sitting down being in a great stance just guarding, taking care of the ball.”
Freshman guard Lenée Beaumont also made her Indiana debut, tallying 9 points along with two assists. Although the pair of freshmen struggled defensively in the exhibition contest, the two seemingly improved on that side of the floor Thursday.
Holmes led all scorers with 19 points, followed by Garzon and Bargesser with 15 points each.
Moren raved about Garzon’s off-season improvements at Indiana basketball’s media day Sept. 20 and the guard’s progress was on full display Thursday — even with her homeland of Israel weighing heavily on her mind.
“What’s more impressive and most impressive is how she handles herself off the floor,” Moren said. “She’s super impressive, there’s no question in terms of how she’s handling this.
Although Indiana took care of business in its season opener, it will now travel to Palo Alto, California, to take on No. 15 Stanford University at 5 p.m. Sunday on ESPN.
Follow reporters Dalton James (@DaltonMJames) and Quinn Richards (@Quinn_richa), columnist Ryan Canfield (@rpcvsthewrld) and photographer Olivia Bianco (@theoliviabianco) for updates throughout the Indiana women’s basketball season.