In its 2022-23 season, Indiana women’s basketball earned its first Big Ten regular season championship since 1983. Meanwhile, Stanford University has dominated the Pac-12 conference, with three straight conference championships and an astounding 35 straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
Both programs were No. 1 seeds in last season's tournament, yet both suffered equally shocking defeats in the second round of the dance. Now, a long offseason has the two teams geared up for their first major obstacles of the season when No. 9 Indiana travels to northern California to take on No. 15 Stanford.
Stars of the show
Both squads feature a star forward with Indiana’s AP Preseason All-American graduate student forward Mackenzie Holmes and Stanford’s AP Preseason All-American Second Team senior forward Cameron Brink. The former produced a team-high 19 points in the Hoosiers season opener win over Eastern Illinois University while the latter struggled in the Cardinal’s dominant win in their initial game against the University of Hawaii, shooting just 2-of-9 from the field in an eight-point performance.
While all eyes will be on the matchup of Holmes and Brink, Indiana’s head coach Teri Moren believes the game may be decided by the supporting cast.
“We still obviously have a tremendous amount of confidence in Mackenzie,” Moren said Thursday. “But I think for us it's not going to be about the Cameron Brink and Mackenzie Holmes matchup, it's going to be about the matchups of the other four that are on the floor.”
More players to watch
There’s certainly no lack of talent outside of the two stars, as both squads feature a great amount of veteran depth which contributed to their respective conference championships last season. For Indiana, senior guard Sydney Parrish and sophomore guard Yarden Garzon provide valuable offensive firepower.
Parrish tacked on 12 points per game in 2022-23 and was second only to Holmes with 5.4 rebounds per game. The sharpshooting Garzon shot the 3-ball with 45.8% efficiency, fourth best in the country.
In addition to her ability to stretch the floor, the Israeli will also be called on as a playmaker after graduated guard Grace Berger joined the WNBA last offseason. Garzon has already shown promise in that aspect of her play, putting up a team-high seven assists in the Hoosiers’ opener.
For Stanford, junior forward Kiki Iriafen and graduate student guard Hannah Jump stand out as key contributors. Iriafen saw limited time for the Cardinal last season averaging just over 12 minutes per game, but after a 23-point 12-rebound performance in Stanford’s season opener, she is emerging as a secondary star in a loaded Cardinal frontcourt. Jump is in her fifth season with Stanford and will likely serve as a consistent option in the Cardinal offense following a season where she averaged double-digit scoring.
The Hoosiers' gameplan
Indiana is no stranger to playing with pace; in fact, it’s something the Hoosiers emphasize. In the post-game press conference after the Hoosiers' win over Eastern Illinois, sophomore guard Lexus Bargesser simply said, “We love to run.”
The Hoosiers forced 20 total turnovers in their win over the Panthers, which in turn provided them with 30 points coming from the fast break. Indiana’s ability to push the floor is central to the team’s identity, which is why Moren plans to implement that strategy during Sunday’s game.
“You don’t change who we are,” Moren said. “We need to really get out in transition and take advantage of being able to shoot the ball from beyond the arc.”
While the Cardinal offer a much steeper test than Eastern Illinois, the Hoosiers will keep playing their brand of basketball against the tougher competition. Playing a perennial powerhouse like Stanford will provide Indiana with much-needed game experience against a top-level opponent. Regardless of whether the Hoosiers will leave the top-25 matchup with a victory, Moren is confident that her players are ready to battle.
“I think our kids are looking at it as a great challenge and I think their experience will help us when we get over there,” Moren said.
Sunday’s showdown will tip off at 5 p.m. in Palo Alto, California, and will be broadcast 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.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated Parrish's class