By Dylan Wallace
In the dying hours of March 29, Teri Moren’s hair and clothing were not soaked with water for the first time in the NCAA tournament.
After a historic run to the Elite Eight, one filled with postgame celebrations featuring water bottles being sprayed everywhere, Moren had to try to balance the disappointment of losing to Arizona 66-53 and recognizing just how special Indiana’s 2020-21 season was.
“That is a disappointed locker room, and you’re mindful of trying to remind them of the experience and the memories,” Moren said. “We’ve made a lot of really wonderful memories that we won’t forget. We just wish we could’ve stayed a little bit longer.”
It wasn’t easy for Moren. With a locker room filled with competitors, losing to Arizona wasn’t what the Hoosiers wanted — or expected.
There were plenty of opportunities for Indiana to come away with the victory, but the three-point disparity — Arizona shot 9 for 21, while Indiana shot 0 for 9 — as well as the rebounding advantage built by the Wildcats ultimately made the major difference in the game.
The loss ended a season in which Moren led the Hoosiers to new heights. They set a program record for Big Ten wins in a season with 16. They achieved the highest seeding in an NCAA tournament in program history as a No. 4. They advanced to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight for the first time in program history. Not to mention the team did it during a pandemic in which they had zero positive COVID-19 test results.
“I can’t overstate it enough how proud I am of this group, what they’ve been through and what they’ve fought through and what we’ve been able to accomplish,” Moren said.
This season didn’t come out of nowhere, though. This has been a slow build for Moren, a 1987 graduate of Seymour High School. Growing up in Indiana, she understands just how important basketball is.
Moren scored 1,138-career points at Seymour as the team won four sectionals and two regionals throughout her career. She helped the Owls reach the state semifinals in 1987, a season in which she was named an Indiana All-Star after averaging 18.7 points per game.
After graduating from Seymour, Moren played at Purdue. She was a member of the Boilermakers’ first NCAA tournament team and started every game for the 1990-91 Big Ten championship team.
Her playing career has earned her impressive accolades as she was named to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame Silver Anniversary Team in 2012 and was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014 and the Seymour High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2019.
Now, Moren is creating a legacy in coaching. She has only been a head coach in Indiana, starting out at the University of Indianapolis, then going to Indiana State and finally, she has been at the helm of IU’s program since 2014.
Moren has only had one losing season with the Hoosiers, and that was in her first year when the team went 15-16. That means IU has won 20 or more games in six-straight seasons.
Indiana is 6-7 all-time in the NCAA tournament, and Moren is responsible for five of those six wins. This year, the Hoosiers ran off three in a row, defeating No. 13-seeded VCU in the first round, No. 12-seeded Belmont in the second round and No. 1-seeded North Carolina State in the Sweet Sixteen.
The run was historic, but it also was a glimpse into what the new standard is for Moren’s program. Indiana was one win away from a Final Four appearance, and Moren thinks her team is good enough to get back to this point. Her players believe it, too.
“We want this to be a regular thing,” sophomore forward Mackenzie Holmes said following the loss to Arizona. “We’re not surprised to be in the Elite Eight. This gives us an opportunity to build off of this. Now that we’ve gotten a taste of it, we’ll be hungry for more.”
Indiana will be returning a majority of its roster for next season in addition to the 2021 recruiting class. Since all athletes were given an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19, senior starting point guard Ali Patberg, a 2015 Columbus North High School graduate, announced Wednesday she is coming back for one more year.
The expectation of Indiana women’s basketball has changed, and Moren expects a bright future of her program. The athletic department believes in her vision, too. On Thursday, she agreed to a contract extension through 2027 that increases her annual average compensation to $862,500.
“We want to be back next year and make that next step to the Final Four,” Moren said. “We still have unfinished business. We’ll figure out how to get a little better. I’m so proud of these kids.”