IU women’s hoops showcased more firepower in season opener

BLOOMINGTON — After her Indiana University women’s basketball team overwhelmed Vermont 86-49 on Tuesday night at Assembly Hall, coach Teri Moren perused the stat sheet.

She took specific note of the 3-pointer category, where it showed the Hoosiers made 12 of them.

“Last year, it would have taken us three or four games to get 12 3s,” Moren said.

That was casting no aspersion on last year. IU finished 24-9 and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAAs. This was just different. Also different was the starting lineup. Seniors Grace Berger and Mackenzie Holmes, the cornerstones of the team, were the only two starters back.

The box score was littered with the names of newcomers, freshmen and transfers, introducing themselves to fans and demonstrating what Moren saw in practice: The Hoosiers should have more depth and more firepower during the 2022-23 season.

“We have more depth,” Moren said. “To say you’re going to see more kids playing, that would be accurate.”

This was no dog chow team IU bombarded. Vermont won 20 games last year and performed well in the America East Conference. Indiana led 20-13 after one quarter and then began executing more efficiently and pulling away in the second period. The second half belonged to the Hoosiers.

Holmes and Berger were the rocks. Holmes scored 16 points, and Berger, playing more point guard than she has in the past, something Moren said she will need to master for pro ball, had a buffet of a game, scoring 14 points and gathering eight rebounds and eight assists.

“Grace was Grace,” Moren said. “She is our leader.”

Holmes and Berger were joined in the starting lineup by Chloe Moore-McNeil, a backup last year, and two new arrivals, 6-foot-3 freshman Yarden Garzon from Israel and Sara Scalia, a transfer from Minnesota, who averaged 17.9 points per game last season and was second team all-Big Ten. Scalia made 41.3% of her 3-point attempts last winter and four of them Tuesday.

The revelation was Garzon, who scored 19 points in her debut and was 5-for-8 on 3s. Garzon joined the Hoosiers in August but gave every indication she is a big-time recruiting get. Garzon has extensive experience playing on the Israeli National Team and also has a sister, Lior, who began college play at Villanova and transferred to Oklahoma State.

Moren said she was steered toward recruiting Garzon by a Fort Wayne AAU coach. Leading up to this 1-0 public unveiling, Garzon had been impressing teammates regularly in workouts.

“We realized how good she was in practice,” Berger said. “She’s not a typical freshman.”

Garzon is listed as a guard but is about the same height as Holmes, who plays the pivot, and Moren said it is possible Garzon can successfully play any one of the five positions on the floor.

Especially after Holmes injured a knee last season (she is 100% now), the Hoosiers at times seemed thin with a small number of top players going extra long in games.

Even before IU sailed off into the sunset ahead of Vermont, Moren deployed more players for more minutes. Scalia scored 11 points in her first game for IU, and 6-2 forward Sydney Parrish from Fishers scored eight points with four rebounds in her first Hoosier showing after transferring home following a two-year stay at Oregon.

Although with lesser fanfare, 6-4 Alyssa Geary, who averaged 9.5 points a game for Providence last season, totaled four points and four rebounds in less than 8 minutes of play, as IU won the rebounding contest 39-30.

This was all without junior Kiandra Browne, whose right arm was in a cast from injury and was in street clothes.

Talent assessors who ranked Indiana 11th in the preseason Associated Press poll seemed to know what they were talking about, looking past the graduation losses to comprehending what new faces could bring.

“This team is different,” Holmes said. “There is so much firepower. We have a very dynamic team.”

The issue is whether the team can hurry up and fully mesh to become better than last year’s very, very good squad or even exceed the performance of the 2020-21 Elite Eight team.

A lot to ask, but in her ninth season at IU and 371-210 in 19 coaching seasons overall, Moren, the one-time Seymour High School star, has made Indiana women’s basketball a topic in the national conversation.

Lew Freedman writes sports columns for The Tribune. Send comments to [email protected]