BLOOMINGTON — Coming into this season, Sara Scalia was looking to develop consistency.
She was capable of catching fire at any given moment last season, but when she wasn’t hitting shots early, she’d sometimes have trouble staying engaged on the court.
Scalia has improved in that sense this season, and it’s led to even bigger games. And on Friday night against Bowling Green, the fifth-year senior enjoyed her best performance in an IU uniform. She scored 32 points and led the Hoosiers to dominant 84-35 win over Bowling Green at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
I think a big thing is getting in the rhythm of the game early on in the game. In this game, I saw my first few go down from three in the first half, so it just kept me going throughout the game.
“I saw my first couple go down, and obviously my teammates were looking for me when I was open,” Scalia said after the game. “I was just trying to have fun with it and keep playing my game.”
The Minnesota transfer was the best player on the court for most of the time she was out there. Scalia shot an impressive 11 for 17 from the field and 8 for 11 from 3-point range. She also battled notably hard on defense and impacted the game on that end of the floor as well — she added three steals to the huge offensive game.
But it was the electric shooting that captivated the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall crowd. Her memorable performance with Minnesota against IU in February 2022, she knocked down only seven 3-pointers. IU men’s basketball, as a team, has drained that many threes in just one game this season.
The performance amazed IU head coach Teri Moren as well.
“It was fun to watch,” Moren said. “I’m just happy and proud of her. Nobody is in the gym and works more and gotten — not just thousands — millions and millions of the shots that she works on daily, outside of practice, before practice. It was kind of cool to be over there on the sideline and just enjoy it.”
Indiana (10-1) led at halftime, 39-19. The game took a drastic turn for Bowling Green (6-4) just over a minute in, when senior guard Lexi Fleming collided with IU senior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil and fell to the floor in obvious pain. Fleming, who leads the Falcons with 16.7 points per game, couldn’t put weight on her left leg and had to be carried off. She didn’t return to the game, and her absence made life even tougher offensively.
But Indiana played stifling defense nonetheless, holding Bowling Green to 0.613 points per possession in the first half; the Falcons finished the game at 0.538.
Moren praised nearly the entire team individually for the defensive effort Friday, but particularly Moore-McNeil, sophomore guard Lexus Bargesser, and freshmen Lenée Beaumont and Jules LaMendola.
“I think going into this game, as I told them right before we left, ‘Defense will win you this game tonight. And our defense has to show up.’ So some of it was that,” Moren said. “But they had a terrific focus tonight, particularly on that end.”
Offensively, Indiana scored 1.313 points per possession, and seemingly got stronger as the game went on. IU shot 55 percent from the field and 14 for 25 from 3-point range — anchored by Scalia. That’s the second-most threes the Hoosiers have drained in a single game in program history, behind their 16 triples against Gardner-Webb in 2014.
Though Mackenzie Holmes didn’t dominate this game the way she’s capable of, she still ended in double-figure scoring. The graduate student shot 3 for 6 for 10 points, and she grabbed six rebounds, though she committed five turnovers with just two assists.
Moore-McNeil played a strong game on both ends as well. She set the tone defensively, and ran the point with poise on offense. She scored nine points and dished a team-high five assists with no turnovers.
Indiana will have another nine-day break in its schedule, before hosting Illinois on Sunday, December 31 to resume Big Ten play.
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