Connected and prepared, Indiana women’s basketball is ready for March Madness

  • 03/22/2024 1:45 pm in

In college basketball, March always offers a level of unknown. Teams across the country battle throughout the regular season to work their way up and see their name in the NCAA tournament bracket. Indiana is no different; a new year means another opportunity for the Hoosiers.

Indiana enters Saturday’s matchup against Fairfield at Assembly Hall with a 24-5 record, coming off the Big Ten tournament loss in Minneapolis to Michigan. The early conference tournament loss paved the way for Indiana to shift their focus to the more significant task: the NCAA tournament.

Last year, the Hoosiers ended the season in heartbreak, losing to Miami in the second round of March Madness in Bloomington. But this is a new team and an opportunity for Indiana to win a pair of tournament games in front of its home crowd.

Indiana hasn’t forgotten what happened last spring, but the Hoosiers are back, and they have high hopes that an early exit won’t be the case this year.

“I feel like our group has been here before,” Teri Moren said Friday morning. “We came up a little short last year. So I think there’s extra motivation behind being able to not just host but to show up these two days with a tremendous amount of energy and poise.”

This will be Indiana’s third straight season hosting the NCAA tournament in Bloomington.

Friday’s opponent, Fairfield, has 31 wins this season and a 29-game win streak. The Stags, who have just one loss, offer a strong challenge for Indiana. Fairfield is also a sharpshooting team. Most of its production comes from behind the arc. Fairfield shot 33 percent from three this year on more than 800 attempts.

“The fact that they shoot right around 242 more threes than we do says a lot about who they are in terms of how they want to generate their offense,” Moren said. “I think they do a tremendous job of really trying to put pressure on you, getting to the paint with two feet, draw two, and kick out. They share the ball extremely well.

“They have a dynamic point guard in Nelly Brown, their conference player of the Year. Then a lot of really great pieces around them.”

Whenever the calendar strikes March, the preparation for winning is more important than ever. It’s win or go home, and everything teams have worked for leads up to the next game, which could be the last. The atmosphere, pressure, and uncertainty come to life on every possession. But the Hoosiers are used to this. They know they have to be prepared.

“There are a lot of peaks and valleys in games,” Sydney Parrish said. “You just have to get out of the valleys quickly and try to get that peak—as long as you can stay up there.”

“I think it’s just don’t bend. Your team can bend but don’t break. You have to stay together. There’s going to be times when you’re down and times when other teams make runs. You have to stay together the entire time. I think that’s the biggest thing — just fight. You have to be the tougher team.”

Last year’s Indiana team had a lot of new faces, but this year’s team is more experienced and knows what to expect. With one of the top coaches in the country and a new hungry group, this Indiana team enters the weekend hoping to get some revenge from last year.

“I would say the difference is last year, it was a new team,” Chloe Moore-McNeil said. “We had seven new people and so with this year, we have the freshmen coming in and the starters coming in. I feel like the others have a year under their belt. So we are going to be more connected.”

(Photo credit: IU Athletics)

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