WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Teri Moren, throughout her tenure as Indiana’s head women’s basketball coach, has typically utilized a thin rotation.
She leans heavily on her starters, for better or for worse. It’s often out of necessity, feeling like her reserves had not yet reached a level where they could be reliable contributors off the bench, or that her team just couldn’t survive that long with starters off the court.
IU has functioned differently for a lot of this year. But with Sydney Parrish out with a foot or leg injury on Sunday, Moren had to revert to old patterns. And it worked, as No. 16 Indiana outlasted Purdue for a 74-68 win at Mackey Arena.
Moren said Parrish’s injury happened in practice on Friday, and her status going forward was unknown after the game.
“She’s going to have another appointment on Monday, and then we’ll know more. But yeah, unfortunate,” Moren said. “But every team has adversity at some point. Somebody had to step up today, and I thought all of those starters — Sara (Scalia), Mack (Mackenzie Holmes), Chloe (Moore-McNeil), Yarden (Garzon) really had to step up in her absence.”
Moore-McNeil and Scalia played the entire game. Holmes played her second-most minutes in a game this season. Sophomore Lexus Bargesser stepped into the lineup, and played a career-high 34 minutes.
Out of the 200 total minutes a team distributes in a game, IU’s bench accounted for just 16 against Purdue. That’s not normal for these Hoosiers. Going into Sunday, only two players (Scalia and Moore-McNeil) averaged at least 30 minutes per game, and four bench players (including Bargesser) averaged at least nine minutes per game.
Scalia and Moore-McNeil thrived with the extended run. They scored 20 points each — a career-high for Moore-McNeil — and served key roles both as playmakers and defenders. Moren wasn’t planning for the guards to play 40 minutes, but with the close game, she didn’t have a ton of options.
“I don’t know that I told them they were both going to play 40 minutes. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. And these guys are both in tremendous shape, they have the experience,” Moren said. “I thought Sara was great defensively. Chloe always has the task of a tough offensive player to have to guard. I don’t know that we anticipated having to play them the entire game, but we needed to.”
Moren was making a conscious effort — particularly with Holmes — to ease her starters’ workloads a bit more this season, especially early on, to ensure their health later in the year. And she and her staff felt so confident in their bench options that they left three scholarships open this year.
It’s a stark difference from last year. The Hoosiers split starter-level minutes between six players, viewing sixth player Scalia as another starter. But nobody else on Indiana’s bench — excluding Kaitlin Peterson, who left the team midseason — averaged more than eight minutes per game.
But Parrish’s injury could test Moren’s true confidence level in this team’s bench options, if the senior is out for an extended period. It would leave IU with less depth, with Bargesser starting. And it could expand the roles Meister, Jules LaMendola, and Lenée Beaumont would play coming off the bench. While they’re all averaging around 10 minutes per game this season, those minutes typically come in shorter stints.
Is Moren comfortable with her underclassmen playing for longer stretches on the court, in important games?
She appears to be for Bargesser, who played solid defense on Sunday but didn’t score. Meister started IU’s NCAA Tournament opener last year against Tennessee Tech, with Holmes unavailable, and played well. But she’s rarely seen extended minutes this season — she’s played 15 minutes or more in just five games. The freshmen have flashed potential at times, in small spurts on the court, but have also shown their inexperience in other moments.
Will Moren feel ready to give them more minutes, or will she decide that now is the right time to lean harder on her starters? If Sunday is an indication, it’s the latter.
IU dealt with an injury last season, when Grace Berger missed eight games. The team handled that well last year, going 7-1 in that stretch. It’s unclear how much time Parrish will miss, but any sort of lengthy absence will greatly impact the Hoosiers this year — both in the outside shooting and energy they lose with the senior on the sideline, and in what they’ll need from everyone else to make up for it.
“We’ve been here before, adversity strikes. It’s just going to require the rest of them to do more, including our bench. We talked to Lilly and Henna (Sandvik) and Jules and Beau, and so all hands are on deck when one of your starters goes down. Your other starters have to do a little bit more, and then you hope they get something from your bench,” Moren said. “We’ve been through it. We didn’t like having to go through it, but we’ve been through it, so we do have that experience.”
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