All signs are pointing towards another step forward for the Indiana women’s basketball program.
And after four straight 20 win seasons, that’s no small statement.
Head coach Teri Moren returns four starters and 91% of her team’s scoring from a 21-13 season that saw the Hoosiers advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That came on the heels of a memorable 2017-18 run to the WNIT championship.
“As any year, our expectations are always great,” Moren said in a recent Big Ten Network interview.
Those high expectations are shared outside the program as well this year.
Indiana opens the 2019-20 season ranked No. 24 in the preseason AP poll and the Hoosiers were picked to finish third in the Big Ten by the league’s coaches.
Entering her sixth year in charge of the the IU program, Moren sees a roster that has the right balance of experience and talented newcomers to meet the new lofty expectations.
“We have a combination of some vets as well as some young kids that are in the mix which makes it good from a coaching perspective because you have those vets that have that experience that can bring the young kids along,” Moren said in a recent Big Ten coaches teleconference.
Headlining this year’s squad are preseason second team All-Big Ten selection Ali Patberg and honorable mention choices Jaelynn Penn and Brenna Wise.
The 5-foot-11 Patberg averaged 15.8 points for the 2018-19 campaign in her first season with IU after transferring from Notre Dame. The point guard added 5 rebounds and 4.8 assists per contest. Patberg was recently granted an extra year of eligibility and is thus a redshirt junior on the roster.
The Columbus, Indiana product was recently named to the Wooden Award preseason top 30.
More preseason honors for @alipaige_14 👀
She has been named to the Wooden Award Preseason Top 30 #iuwbb ⚪️🔴
— Indiana Women’s Basketball (@IndianaWBB) November 5, 2019
Wise, a 6-foot senior forward, averaged 12 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 41.3 percent from three-point range.
Beyond the statistics, Moren sees Wise and Patberg as the leaders of this Hoosier squad, both verbally and by example.
“One of the things that Brenna (Wise) and Ali Patberg do such a great job of is they are both vocal leaders,” Moren said. “They both have really, really, great communication skills.
“You want your hardest workers to be your best players and that has rang true.”
Penn has started every game in each of her first two seasons at Indiana. The 5-foot-10 guard averaged 13.9 points as a sophomore.
Grace Berger, a 6-foot sophomore guard from Louisville appears to be ready to take a big step forward and make a major impact in her second season in Bloomington.
“Grace looks like a completely different player,” Moren said. “She’s been the best player on the floor.”
Berger averaged 5.5 points, 2.8 rebounds per game and 1.6 assists per game as a freshman.
A wildcard for the Hoosiers will be junior guard Bendu Yeaney.
Yeaney, who Moren referred to as the team’s best defender, suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in March during the team’s second round NCAA Tournament contest.
The Oregon product appears on track to return in late December or early January. Yeaney started all but one of IU’s games last season and played 32.1 minutes per contest, contributing 9.7 points and 4.1 rebounds.
“She’s healed really well,” Moren said of Yeaney. “Mentally she’s ready to go.”
The Hoosiers have also added six freshmen to the roster, including a walk-on and a redshirt.
Of the four in the mix to play, Bedford, Indiana based forward Jorie Allen has impressed Moren the most thus far.
“She’s college ready, there’s no question about it,” Moren said of Allen. “Just how she came in mentally, physically. She’s a kid that stands out to me in that young group as someone that’s going to contribute quick.”
Also in the mix for playing time at guard are Keyanna Warthen (junior, 1.4 ppg), Chanel Wilson (redshirt freshman) and true freshmen Shaila Beeler and Grace Waggoner (preferred walk-on).
Beyond Wise, the Hoosiers will look to a youth movement in the frontcourt, including Allen.
The Hoosiers have substantial depth and height at the forward and center spots, but they are young and relatively unproven in the paint. Sophomore Aleksa Gulbe (6-foot-3, 5.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg) is back along with true freshmen Hannah Noveroske (6-foot-5) and Mackenzie Holmes (6-foot-3).
Freshman center Arielle Wisne will redshirt this season.
The Hoosiers open their 2019-20 season on Thursday against Mount St. Mary’s at 7 p.m. EST in Bloomington.
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