After Maryland women’s basketball rolled out some press defense against Indiana on Wednesday, Teri Moren thought her IU team handled it well.
The Hoosiers committed more turnovers in the second half in College Park, but that had more to do with the Terps’ matchup zone with a lot of halfcourt traps. After that game, Moren said the Hoosiers prepared for Maryland’s press, and didn’t see it cause many issues.
Sunday’s game against Ohio State was another story. The Buckeyes run a more aggressive full-court press, and it completely flustered the Hoosiers. And it ultimately proved the difference in the game, as OSU pulled out a 74-69 win.
IU worked on breaking the press leading into the game, but Moren still had concerns about it going into Columbus.
“There’s a lot of things I’d like to do different, but you don’t get second chances,” Moren said after the game. “I’ll take all the blame for the press attack today and not putting our kids in the right (positions). And they knew it, and they knew they had to be able to handle themselves. And for two days against our press guys, our scout guys, they did a decent job, but it was still concerning, because their pressure and Ohio State’s pressure looks a little bit different.”
While the specific looks the Buckeyes threw at Indiana Sunday might have caught the Hoosiers off-guard, it wasn’t a big secret that OSU runs a very effective press defense.
IU, memorably, was knocked out of the Big Ten Tournament last year by these same Buckeyes. And it was the same press that threw the Hoosiers off their game. They committed 18 turnovers that day in Minneapolis.
Indiana turned the ball over 23 times on Sunday in Columbus. This was not only a season-high — this was IU’s most turnovers in a game since November 2021.
To be fair, Ohio State does this to everyone, not just Indiana. The Buckeyes ranked 18th in the nation entering Sunday’s action with 21.05 turnovers forced per game. Only seven opponents (out of 22) have finished with fewer than 20 turnovers in any game against Ohio State this year.
And perhaps the Hoosiers would’ve fared better against the press if Sydney Parrish was healthy — though Lexus Bargesser finished with the fewest turnovers (two) of any IU starter.
But the Hoosiers knew this was coming, and knew they struggled against the press last season, and still lost their composure.
“We knew that they were going to press. We’ve had two days to prepare for it. And it’s making sure I’ve got the pieces in the right place, and the right decision-makers in the right place,” Moren said. “But it’s (the press is) aggressive. They’re very athletic. That’s what they feed off of, their press and creating turnovers and causing turnovers and scoring and whatnot. It wasn’t like we were surprised by it, but we just didn’t handle it very well today.”
Yarden Garzon was IU’s biggest culprit, with six turnovers — it was her third game in the last six contests with at least six. Mackenzie Holmes and Chloe Moore-McNeil had five each. Sara Scalia gave away three turnovers. And Lenée Beaumont had one.
The giveaways weren’t all in the backcourt against the press. IU committed several in its halfcourt offense as well.
Ohio State’s defense just rattled the Hoosiers.
“Our spacing at times was not what it needed to be, against a press like that you need to stay spread out. I thought we were guilty of catching and putting the ball on the floor immediately, versus catching and facing and turning and looking,” Moren said. “I think all of us, like I said, are always guilty of one or two that we wish we could have back. And you can’t do that against a team like Ohio State, because they make you pay.”
And now, the Hoosiers will once again need help to get back in position for a Big Ten title. IU sits one game behind both Iowa and Ohio State in the conference standings. If all three teams take care of business elsewhere, it will come down to two crucial games: Iowa at Indiana on February 22, and Ohio State at Iowa on March 3. If the home teams win both of those games, and if there are no other losses, it would see the Hoosiers, Buckeyes, and Hawkeyes each win a share of the championship.
But the Big Ten is a tough conference. There are other quality opponents left on the schedule for all three frontrunners — at least five other Big Ten teams are in realistic contention for an NCAA Tournament berth. Ohio State has five games left against those teams. Iowa has four. Indiana, though, has just one — Thursday’s game against Michigan State.
It’s not a bad position for IU to sit in, but the Iowa game will easily be its most pressure-filled game of the season. That won’t only play a role in the Big Ten title race — it will weigh heavily towards IU’s hopes of hosting NCAA Tournament games for the third consecutive year. If the Hoosiers fall to the Hawkeyes, they may have work to do in the Big Ten Tournament.
And if that happens, Indiana may look back on this game in Columbus with even more regret.
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