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Saturday, May 18
The Indiana Daily Student

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Indiana women’s basketball hopes to slay Goliath, set to face South Carolina in Sweet 16

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Indiana women’s basketball took care of business in its Round of 32 matchup Monday night, clawing past the University of Oklahoma to earn a 75-68 win. However, its time to bask in celebration was short lived with the No. 1 overall seed University of South Carolina looming. 

It's not often that a 26-5 team in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament is considered a massive underdog, but that will be the case for the Hoosiers on Friday night. The Gamecocks will enter as 15-point favorites, backed in part by a spotless 34-0 resume this season. On top of that, the SEC champions won their first and second round games by an average margin of 49.5 points. 

“Yes, we're the underdog, but I think everybody else except for South Carolina right now is the underdog because of their perfect record,” Indiana head coach Teri Moren said in her pregame press conference Thursday. “I don't know that anybody believes that South Carolina can be beat.” 

For Indiana to take down Goliath, graduate student forward Mackenzie Holmes will almost certainly need to have a big performance. The Hoosiers’ leading scorer practically willed her team past the Sooners last time out with a game-high 29 points on 12-for-23 shooting. Holmes’ simply couldn't be stopped in the second half as she repeatedly found deep positioning in the post and converted at the rim, but that may be a taller task against the Gamecocks. 

South Carolina leads all Division I programs with 7.9 blocks per game, with sophomore forward Ashlyn Watkins and senior center Kamilla Cardoso both averaging over 2.4 blocks per game. Cardoso, who stands at a towering 6-foot-7, will likely be matched up on the smaller 6-foot-3 Holmes, a lofty obstacle in the paint. 

Leading the Gamecocks in both points (13.9 ppg) and rebounds (9.5 rpg), Cardoso plays a key role in the South Carolina offense as well. 

“You're not going to keep her from scoring,” Moren said. “She's too talented for that. I think you have to try to do your work early and try to keep her away from the rim as well as you can.” 

Beyond Cardoso, the Gamecock’s biggest strength is likely its incredible depth. Nine of the 11 players on South Carolina’s roster average 15 or more minutes per game, all of whom average at least five points per game. They're a team that prioritizes sharing the ball with dangerous scores flooding the court at all times. 

While the Hoosiers have no shortage of talent, their roster is much more top-heavy with all five starters averaging double digits and not a single bench player averaging more than five. Indiana will need its starting five to play plenty of minutes to keep up with the high-powered Gamecocks. Indiana guards fifth-year senior Sara Scalia and senior Chloe Moore-McNeil both played 38 of the game’s 40 minutes in the Hoosiers most recent win and will likely have similarly heavy usage against South Carolina. 

Moore-McNeil will be crucial for the Hoosiers, holding the positions of primary playmaker and top perimeter defender. The longtime Hoosier will be responsible for running Indiana’s offense and locking down the versatile Gamecock guards, much easier said than done. Regardless, Moore-McNeil remains confident and laser focused on pulling off the upset. 

“We know everybody expects South Carolina to win,” Moore-McNeil. “They're a great team, and obviously they're undefeated, but it's March Madness, so you kind of have to throw all those things out of the window and just focus on yourself and winning.” 

The Hoosiers will square off with the undefeated Gamecocks at 5 p.m. Friday night inside the MVP Arena in Albany, New York, with the game being televised on ESPN. 

Follow reporters Dalton James (@DaltonMJames) and Quinn Richards (@Quinn_richa), columnist Ryan Canfield (@_ryancanfield) and photographer Olivia Bianco (@theoliviabianco) for updates throughout the Indiana women’s basketball season.

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