Indiana women's basketball seeks best start in school history

By Andy Wittry
Published Dec 29, 2013 12:21 am

The last time the IU women's basketball team was undefeated through its first 12 games, it was 1971--the first year of the program. Forty-two years later, the Hoosiers have repeated the feat and they have the opportunity to rewrite the school's record books on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. against Xavier (5-6) in Cincinnati, OH.

IU's trip to the Cintas Center is the finale of the Hoosiers' three-game road trip in December. The team had more than a week without a game after its 107-73 victory at Cleveland State on Dec. 21, the second-largest single-game scoring outburst in program history.

Last year--IU Coach Curt Miller's first season in Bloomington--the Hoosiers hosted Xavier and won 66-55. Only five IU players scored in that matchup; then-seniors Aulani Sinclair and Jasmine McGhee both accounted for 27 points.

Despite the loss of the team's top three scorers from last season, the Hoosiers have reloaded with seven freshmen and redshirt sophomore Kaila Hulls, who is donning cream and crimson for the first time in her career after transferring from Bowling Green.

Freshman guard Larryn Brooks leads IU in scoring at 19.5 points per game and she dropped 37 points against Virginia Tech on Dec. 4 in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Six of the Hoosiers' top seven scorers are in their first season playing for IU. First-year players are responsible for 71.2 percent of the team's scoring.

Xavier returns four players who started at least 14 games last season. Three Musketeer guards--Shatyra Hawkes, Ashley Wanninger and Jenna Crittendon--average double figures in scoring. The trio was held to 10 points on 3-of-17 shooting against the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall last December.

What would a win mean for IU?

A victory against Xavier would give the Hoosiers a 13-0 record and the best start in school history. IU would remain the only undefeated team in the Big Ten and the team would break its own single-season record for most non-Big Ten regular season wins. Thirteen consecutive wins would be the longest winning streak by an IU women's basketball team.

A Hoosier win on Sunday would mean IU would make it through its non-conference schedule unscathed before heading into its Big Ten opener against No. 21 Iowa on Jan. 2 in Bloomington.

While the Hoosiers haven't faced a ranked opponent this season, the team has proven that it can win on the road. IU is 5-0 on the road and three of those games were decided by six points or fewer. By the time conference play tips off, the Hoosiers will have played more true road games than any other Big Ten team.

Arguably the most important aspect of the Hoosiers' historic run is what it means for the team in the big picture of the entire season. IU has already eclipsed its win total from last season (11) and if the Hoosiers defeat Xavier, then the team's NCAA Tournament resume couldn't be more impressive through the first two months of the season.

Could history repeat itself?

When IU started 12-0 in the inaugural season of the Hoosier women's basketball program, the team finished 14-2 and advanced to the AIAW Elite Eight. The Hoosiers followed that up with runs to the Final Four and Elite Eight in the next two seasons.

While it's still early in the season and the Hoosiers have their entire Big Ten schedule ahead of them, Coach Miller and the IU women's basketball team is approaching levels of greatness that haven't been reached in decades.

Game Notes:

  • Indiana leads the all-time series 2-1
  • IU won the last meeting on Dec. 21, 2012 by a score of 66-55
  • This is IU's first road game against Xavier
  • IU is the only Big Ten team to play three consecutive road games in the 2013-14 season
  • IU received votes in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll and the USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll in the same week for the first time in five seasons
  • The Hoosiers are 30th in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll and tied for 39th in the USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll
  • IU is 22nd in team RPI
  • The game will bring IU sophomore guard Nicole Bell back to her hometown of Cincinnati, OH, where she starred for Indian Hill High School

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