Standing on the south sideline inside Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio, Indiana head coach Teri Moren looked down, shaking her head in frustration. Just moments later, she flailed into her seat on the far west bench, crossing her arms while continuing to shake her head.
Graduate student forward Mackenzie Holmes had just picked up her third foul of the contest while subsequently committing the Hoosiers’ 11th turnover of the third quarter.
With 24.2 seconds left in the third frame of then-No. 10 Indiana women’s basketball’s top-10 matchup with then-No. 8 Ohio State on Feb. 4, the Hoosiers trailed by 8 points.
Moren was visibly disappointed.
Her team? They looked distraught in the third quarter, making uncharacteristic plays throughout the 10 minutes. Turnover after turnover while attempting to break the Buckeyes’ full-court press had it looking like the Hoosiers were on the verge of another blowout loss on the road to a ranked opponent.
Although they pulled to within 3 points in the waning moments of the game, the Hoosiers fell 74-69 while committing 23 turnovers.
Perhaps Moren was disappointed because her squad is 0-3 against top-25 opponents on the road this season compared to a 4-1 mark in 2022-23.
Not only have the Hoosiers yet to win a ranked matchup on the road, but they’ve also largely yet to compete — until Feb. 4.
On Nov. 13, then-No. 15 Stanford University jumped on the Hoosiers right from the tipoff, leading by 11 points after the first quarter. They continued their domination in the second quarter, taking a 54-26 advantage into halftime — one that proved insurmountable for Indiana.
Indiana turned in a season-worst 3-point performance against Stanford, going 5-of-32 (15.6%) from beyond the arc. The Hoosiers committed 15 turnovers against the Cardinal and were outrebounded 50-27 in a 96-64 loss.
Then, on Jan. 13, the cream and crimson were within 6 points at the break inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena against then-No. 3 Iowa. The Hawkeyes dominated the second half 41-20 en route to an 84-57 victory. The Hoosiers went 5-of-20 from distance while Caitlin Clark racked up six 3-pointers en route to scoring 30 points. Indiana was outrebounded 37-28 by Iowa.
In eight quarters on the road against ranked foes, Indiana won one of them and it was by 1 point — the fourth quarter against Stanford.
Turnovers, rebounds and 3-point shooting are measurable statistics — ones Indiana has struggled with, but fight is immeasurable quality about a team.
Although the Hoosiers may have fight — as they have for years Moren said — if their shooting struggles reappear, they’ll need to protect and rebound the basketball.
There’s been a stark contrast in Indiana’s shooting in its three losses compared to its 18 wins. They shot 52.9% from the field in the wins, but 40.9% in losses.
Not only has the field goal percentage tanked in their defeats, but so has their 3-point percentage. The Hoosiers have shot 42.7% from beyond the arc in victories but 23.5% in losses.
When the Hoosiers’ shots aren’t falling, they must rebound the basketball. They haven’t done that, though, averaging 21 rebounds per game in their losses compared to 36.5 in their victories.
When they aren’t knocking down shots, the Hoosiers can’t afford to give away the basketball. But they do, averaging 17.7 turnovers per game in losses while 12.8 in victories. Giving the basketball away 23 times is nearly impossible to overcome, but the Hoosiers almost did against Ohio State on Feb. 4.
The Hoosiers trailed by 14 in the fourth quarter against the Buckeyes, but they competed. Pulling to within 3 points in the final minute gave them a sliver of hope.
Senior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil explained after falling to Iowa that good teams will make their opponents pay for a lot of turnovers. Ohio State did that, scoring 21 points off the Hoosiers’ blunders.
But the fight was there. Indiana didn’t lose by 32 or 27 points on Sunday — just 5.
“I’m never surprised by our fight,” Moren said. “These kids ... they care, and they’re competitive, and they want to do well, and they want to be successful for one another.”
Although they fell short, the Hoosiers’ 5-point loss — without senior guard Sydney Parrish — provides hope they’ve learned from the blowout defeats, continuing to make progress in turning the corner in terms of competing with the nation’s best.
“All these [losses] have been really hard lessons,” Moren said. “But we’ve taken every lesson that we’ve learned, and we’ve become better because of it.”
While Indiana has just one current ranked opponent remaining on its schedule in No. 2 Iowa on Feb. 22, it still has several potentially challenging matchups. The Hoosiers will host Purdue on Sunday and Maryland on March 3, while traveling to Illinois on Feb. 19 — a team they beat by just 6 points Dec. 31.
While Indiana looks to have turned the corner, it’ll need help from Big Ten foes to take down Iowa and Ohio State — the two squads tied for first at 10-1 — to re-assert itself into the conference title race.