Indiana Women’s Basketball Looking to Build on WNIT Momentum

Raise the banner — and then raise the standard.

IU women’s basketball head coach Teri Moren knows the number down to the last person.  On multiple occasions, the 5th year head coach has precisely referred to the WNIT championship record breaking home crowd of 13,007.

She also knows that in order to keep the fans coming back, the level of play is going to have to take the next step.

“I will say this, I’ve made it crystal clear, as much as I loved the WNIT experience for our program and the community of Bloomington, that’s ultimately not our goal.  Our goal is to be in the NCAA Tournament and to win a Big Ten championship, Moren said on the BTN.”

While the Hoosiers have the tall task of replacing program legends Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill, Moren appears to have the foundation to expand on last year’s success.

WHO’S BACK

Kym Royster is back for her senior year.  The 6-2 forward was asked to do a lot more as a junor, and she came through.  She averaged 16 more minutes, 6 more points, and 3.4 more rebounds vs. her sophomore year.  More will be asked again in 2018-19, as she steps into a leadership role.

Jaelynn Penn was a Top 50 recruit, and she performed as advertised as a freshman.  Penn was a starter from day one and played a big role throughout the season.  There was no freshman fatigue for the 5-10 guard either.  She got stronger as the season wore on, averaging 13.8 points and 5.7 rebounds during the WNIT.  Both of those marks were improvements over her regular season averages.  This year Penn will likely be a major focus of the offense.

Photo credit – Indiana University

Bendu Yeaney was another freshman starter that seemed to get stronger as the season wore on.  The 5-10 guard averaged 11.7 points per game over the last 10 and shot the ball much better as the season wore on.  She’ll be asked to do a little bit of everything this year, including playing the role of defensive stopper.

The Hoosiers will also have several role players from last year’s team that will be asked to do more this year.  Keyanna Warthen and Linsey Marchese both played key roles off the bench and will be asked to continue that in the upcoming season.  Alexis Johnson is another player that could see increased minutes in an effort to fill the void left by Cahill.

NEW FACES

While it is a lot to ask, the Hoosiers have two highly regarded transfers that play Buss and Cahill’s positions and are now eligible to play in 2018-19.  Both have two years of eligibility remaining.

Ali Patberg is a name that may be familiar to those in the Hoosier state.  The 5-10 point guard and Notre Dame transfer sat out this past season after spending two years with the Irish.  Patberg attended Columbus North High School in Indiana and averaged 25.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 3.1 steals per game with a .536 field-goal percentage in her senior year there.  That performance was good enough to earn her Indiana Miss Basketball honors and a spot on the 2015 McDonald’s All-American team.

Photo credit – David Woods/Indy Star

Brenna Wise is another transfer that is expected to have a big impact on this year’s team.  Wise sat out last year after spending two seasons at Pittsburgh, where she led the Panthers in both points and rebounds each season.  She is also a talented three-point shooter.  The 6-0 forward averaged 14.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while earning All-Academic ACC honors during her sophomore year.  In high school Wise was rated the 13th best small forward for the class of 2015 by ESPN.

Indiana also has talent in its 2018 freshman class coming in for this season as well:

  • Grace Berger is a 5-star, ESPN 100, 5-11 guard out of Louisville that can do a little of everything and adds valuable length at the guard position.
  • Chanel Wilson is a 3-star 5-6 point guard out of Georgia that could provide a nice change of pace with her quickness.
  • Aleksa Gulbe is coming to IU from Europe.  At 6-foot-3, she will add much needed size.  She led the U19 Latvian League to a championship where she was named Most Valuable Player as she scored 32 points and 12 rebounds in the championship game.

THE 2018-19 SEASON

It was clear in IU’s 78-52 exhibition win over the Northwood that the newcomers are going to play a big role — and they appear ready for the challenge.

Berger scored 13 points and added 6 rebounds and 5 assists.  Wise also had 13 points and 6 rebounds, while Patberg added 9 points, 8 assists and 4 rebounds.  Gulbe led all scorers with 15 points in just 22 minutes of action.

Along with the returning players, IU appears to be a deeper team that shouldn’t have a drop off in talent.

The schedule will provide some early challenges including Florida, Wake Forest, UCLA and Butler.  As always, the Big Ten will be a grind, with Maryland and Iowa in the Top 25, and several other programs just outside the rankings including Minnesota, Nebraska and Michigan.

While the conference is strong again, it isn’t dominant.  If Indiana is can get off to a better start than they have in recent years, they should end up as one of the better teams in the league and back in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament.

Note:  The regular season tips-off on Wednesday at home against Milwaukee at 7 p.m.  You can see the full schedule here.


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