Yarden Garzon’s career night carries Indiana to 71-57 win against Tennessee

  • 11/24/2023 7:46 am in

FORT MYERS, Fla. – 75 minutes before tipoff, Yarden Garzon sits alone on the sideline. Her teammates are stretching and warming up on the court around her, chatting with each other, singing along to the music over the speakers and working with various coaches. Garzon is by herself, silent and stoic. She’s either incredibly focused or staring into space.

No one knows what’s going through her head except for her. Her facial expression is the same one she has when she’s on the court: unreadable. She could be thinking about her friends and family in Israel. She could be thinking about the homework she needs to do, what she wants the postgame meal to be, or the fact that it’s her 20th birthday. One could only speculate.

However, it didn’t require any hypothesizing to know how Garzon felt after the game. The grin on her face said it all. The sophomore had just led her team to a statement win over a ranked opponent, recorded a new career-high in points and shot 83 percent from beyond the arc. The fact that it was her birthday was just the cherry on top.

“The win was the best birthday gift I could have given myself,” Garzon said with a small laugh.

Indiana, entering the day ranked No. 21 in the AP Poll, pulled off what technically was an upset over No. 19 Tennessee by a final score of 71-57 Thursday night, highlighted by Garzon’s career-high 23 points. She shot 5-for-6 from deep and posted five rebounds and five assists, posing a threat on both ends of the court.

Garzon’s dominant performance was reminiscent of her stellar freshman year, in which she emerged as one of the top three-point shooters in the nation. She averaged 11.1 points per game and was the fourth-best three-point shooter in the NCAA, shooting 45.8%.

Before Thursday night, Garzon was 3-for-12 from deep. Despite scoring double figures in two out of the first four games of the season, she knew she could do more.

“Yarden’s been disappointed,” Teri Moren said. “We believe in her, we have confidence in her, we see those same shots go down in practice. So anytime she hits them, the only people that aren’t surprised are probably us. But it was great for her because she needed a game like this.”

Garzon is not one to show much emotion on the court, as evidenced by her deadpan expressions even after she hits a deep 3-pointer with nothing but net. But there were a few times Thursday night when there were some cracks in the armor, showing how much it meant to her.

“I know how much work Yarden puts into her game,” Mackenzie Holmes said. “I’ve seen her work ethic and I’ve seen her develop as a player and I know how capable she is.”

Holmes and Garzon employed their “two-man game”, as Holmes calls it, to cause as many problems as possible for Tennessee on both ends of the floor. While Garzon locked it down from beyond the arc, Holmes posted up in the paint. Both of them gave their all going up for rebounds, and their efforts were rewarded as the Hoosiers out-rebounded the Lady Vols 42-39 and held them to only five second-chance points. Entering the game, the Lady Vols averaged about 23 second-chance points per game.

The powerhouse duo seemed to be talking almost constantly when they were on the floor, directing each other on where to go and moving around each other to be in the best position for whatever was happening on the floor. And, of course, they were always cheering each other on.

“Sometimes I feel like Mack is my older sister on the team,” Garzon said. “She’s given me a lot of confidence. We talk a lot about our game, we work out together, so we have a really good relationship.”

Garzon seems to have solid relationships with all of her teammates, who have stood by the Israeli native as she processes the attack on Israel by the terrorist group Hamas at the beginning of October and all that has happened since. Much of Garzon’s family is in Israel, and while she can call them over the phone, worries still arise every single day as the conflict continues. So, her second family stepped up and have charged themselves to support her in any way they can. And sometimes, that means being patient and trusting that Garzon will come through when she can.

“There’s been a lot going on at home, as you know,” Moren said. “She’s been tied up and sometimes off focus with some of those things, but I also think she’s mature and she’s handled the, not just going to school, but also the basketball part of it in a great way. And so she needed a game like tonight, where she could see that thing go in.”

Garzon will say Thursday’s game isn’t that special and isn’t much different than any other game. She came in with the same mentality and the same goals, and she produced. But the way she smiled and the way the team celebrated her after the game speak for themselves.

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