Indiana women’s basketball hosted Northwood University on Wednesday for its only exhibition of the season, picking up a 111-68 win. With the news that former Indiana men’s basketball coach and legend Bob Knight passed away shortly before tip-off, it was a timid atmosphere when the reigning Big Ten champions took the floor. Post-game, graduate student forward Mackenzie Holmes said that the team was unaware of Knight’s passing until the moment of silence held for Knight prior to the game.
The game, however, is exactly how you want an exhibition against a Division II opponent to go — full of valuable in-game experience for all and the stars shining. Holmes scored 28 points and eight rebounds, going 14-of-14 from the field while fifth-year senior guard Sara Scalia hit five 3-pointers.
“(Scalia) has been shooting the ball really well in practice,” Moren said postgame. “Sara Scalia looks the best she has ever looked in her career in terms of fitness level, her mind, her confidence, all of it.” Moren finished.
IU seemed to be right back where they left off — dominating. Unlike the Indiana men’s basketball against the University of Indianapolis on Oct. 29, this game was in IU’s hands all game long.
We saw a little bit of everyone on the roster in action Wednesday. Whether it was sophomore forward Lilly Meister grabbing a team-high 14 rebounds or sophomore guard Lexus Bargesser scoring 11 points and seven assists, Indiana looked like they had not skipped a beat.
The contest for Indiana was a helpful experience for its newcomers, especially with the Hoosiers' second game of the season being on the road in Palo Alto, California, against Stanford University. And truly, that’s what these exhibitions are for — tuning up the second unit and getting those players in-game reps.
“It was great that we could play that many players,” Moren said. “We intentionally started putting some of those young kids in there to play with some of the vets because we knew there would be some, not just anticipation but butterflies which we expected. We wanted our vets to kind of help those guys get settled in.”
One of those new players Moren hinted at was freshman guard Julianna LaMendola who had “happy feet” on defense as described by Moren. LaMendola — the Coppell, Texas, native — is arguably the crown jewel of Indiana’s 2023 recruiting class. Moren even benched LaMendola to simply coach her as she noticed her nerves took over her performance for a small fraction of the game.
“They are typical freshman nerves, butterflies and I just told her to relax,” Moren said. “She smiled, which gave me great relief. And then she hit that layup, which I was thrilled about.”
During the post-game press conference, Moren was asked countless times about Knight and the legacy he put on Indiana basketball. On this grim day, Moren explained that she tried to model her teams like how Knight coached his teams. She reflected on the powerful impact he had on her career and ultimately her life.
“My early memories of him were just growing up in Indiana,” Moren — a Seymour native —said. “For me, Coach Knight was it.”
“He is perhaps one of the reasons why I am sitting here today,” Moren later added.
Overall, Wednesday night was a great step in the right direction for the 2023-24 Indiana women's basketball squad. The Hoosiers will begin their regular season at 7 p.m. Nov. 9 against Eastern Illinois University in Bloomington.