The game was tied at 68 with just 6.6 seconds left when University of Miami then-graduate student forward Destiny Harden received the ball in the post off the inbound pass, matching up against Indiana women’s basketball then-graduate student guard Grace Berger.
With the No. 1 seed Hoosiers looking to hold the No. 9 seed Hurricanes and force overtime, Harden took a step to her right and took a shot just inside the Big Ten logo in the paint. With Indiana’s season hanging in the balance, the ball hit the rim, then the heel, then the backboard and ultimately fell into the basket.
Harden’s shot proved to be the dagger, giving Miami a 70-68 victory, knocking Indiana out of the NCAA Tournament in the Round of 32 on March 20, 2023. While the Hoosiers went 26-2 in the regular season en route to the program’s first Big Ten regular season title since 1983, they went 2-2 in postseason play, headlined by the loss to the Hurricanes.
“I don’t think we’re over it,” senior guard Sydney Parrish said at Indiana’s basketball media day on Sept. 20. “For me at least, I’m not over it. People still mention it a lot and it kind of hurts so I think that’ll just be another thing that drives us through the season.”
Being unsatisfied with a trip to the Round of 32 exemplifies how far the program has advanced in recent seasons. Indiana has gone from playing in seven total NCAA Tournament games between 1982 and 2018 to 11 in the past four seasons. In previous years, a loss in the second round may not have been as disappointing as it was last March, but it has provided the 2023-24 squad with extra inspiration.
Not only did the loss disappoint Indiana, but it continues to be a motivating factor ahead of the 2023-24 season. With nearly every consistent contributor returning from last season’s squad — except for the since-graduated Grace Berger — the Hoosiers are seemingly poised for a redemption run come NCAA Tournament time with the loss in the back of their mind.
“It can’t be all of their motivation, because like I said, I don’t want them to take away from all the other great things that we accomplished a year ago,” Indiana head coach Teri Moren said at Indiana’s basketball media day. “Certainly, if they want to use it for fuel, I’m okay with that.”
Indiana added a pair of four-star recruits in freshman guards Julianna LaMendola and Lenée Beaumont alongside The University of Tennessee at Martin transfer Sharnecce Currie-Jelks. While LaMendola and Beaumont may not have been highly touted 5-stars, they’ll look to make an instant impact in their first seasons in Bloomington.
“I think like Sharnecce, Jules and Lenée have done an amazing job coming in and already putting in so much hard work,” Parrish said. “They’re special and they’re a good group to have in this program.”
The Hoosiers had seven newcomers a season ago, so they are no strangers to having to gel together during the beginning of a new campaign. Indiana traveled to Greece in August, going 2-0 in a pair of blowout exhibition games, but the experience was more valuable than the on-court result. The gelling process has been accelerated with the overseas trip, as the teammates were able to vacation together alongside playing basketball.
“Any time that you can take international trips the way we did, it just helps with those new kids,” Moren said. “[The newcomers] already understood the workpiece, but just the time that you can spend together and getting to know one another, there’s a real not just camaraderie but the chemistry.”
The newcomers’ ability to slot directly into the program seamlessly is a testament to Moren and her coaching staff’s recruiting strategy. While she may not make the gigantic splashes in recruiting that programs such as the University of Connecticut and the University of South Carolina make with multiple 5-stars, Moren has continuously recruited players that she can develop while also aligning with her program’s values.
“I think you have to continue to be able to articulate to recruits, prospects, how we got here and what we believe that are the standards in our program and why we are to the place that we are,” Moren said. “You have to find the recruits that are about the things that we value and that’s the work piece, that’s the character piece and that’s the team piece.”
Although Indiana enters the 2023-23 season coming off a largely successful campaign, the program hasn’t changed its identity — a team that prides itself in its work ethic. As the Hoosiers prepare for their regular season opener at 7 p.m. Nov. 9 against Eastern Illinois University, Moren affirmed there’s more for her program to achieve.
“We walk in, whether it’s Cook Hall or Assembly Hall, every day with this workman-like attitude that we haven’t achieved anything yet,” Moren said. “That’s what I love about our team and their mindset. There’s still, as we say, more work to be done.”
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.