IU women make grand first impression; Moren picks up 400th career victory


BLOOMINGTON — There were the daily numbers and the lifetime numbers, but math majors following the Indiana University women’s basketball team Thursday night had to be satisfied.

On the daily ledger, the Hoosiers opened the regular season with a 96-43 thumping of Eastern Illinois, a very big number. Sophomore Yarden Garzon had perhaps her finest game with 15 points and seven assists, sophomore Lexus Bargesser definitely had her best game with 15 points on 7-for-7 shooting and senior Mackenzie Holmes scored a team-high 19 points on 9-for-10 shooting.

On the career front, coach Teri Moren won her 400th game, though she shrugged it off as it was more annoyance than milestone. And Holmes edged within a basket of becoming the school’s second all-time leading scorer.

Also, on the meaning-of-life scale, Garzon, who is Israeli, offered a reminder she is playing a game while her country is at war and her family in potential jeopardy.

For sure, the Hoosiers, who entered the season ranked No. 9 nationally in The Associated Press poll, entertained the 8,300 fans in Assembly Hall. That number, too, was a notable indicator of how attention and achievement have jump-started fan interest. Such crowd sizes used to be rare, but now, the Hoosiers, who finished 28-4 last season, have become a more routine hotter commodity.

“I get a lot of compliments from the energy in the building, and it has a lot to do with the people inside of it, and we’re really grateful for our fans,” said Moren, a Seymour native.

The visiting Panthers of the Ohio Valley Conference in theory were no pushover, going 21-8 last season. In reality, after hanging tight for five minutes in trailing just 14-10, they were quickly pushed off a cliff by the Big Ten power.

“Again, I thought we got off to a fast start, which we wanted, too,” Moren said. “I thought our defense was slow at first, but then it started to pick up. It was just us challenging our group to really sit down and guard the ball better, and I thought that happened.”

Indiana passed crisply, ran fast breaks hard and in a hurry ballooned the lead to 29-14 after one quarter and to 53-24 at the half. It was almost humorous but unnecessary that Bargesser nailed shots with zero time on the clock to end the second period and third period. She laughed, saying she never before had two buzzer beaters on the same day.

“Either way, as long as they go in,” she said.

The shots went in for everyone, Indiana hitting 65.2% from the floor, although Moren was irked by sloppy free throw shooting (2 for 11). That was the only real flaw she could come up with as the team makes a quick turnaround, flying to California to face No. 15 Stanford on Sunday.

Moren did not make a big deal about winning her 400th game as a head coach at the University of Indianapolis, Indiana State and now in her 10th season at IU. When the players saluted her, she looked at the box score and threatened to make them shoot 400 foul shots in practice. A very coachlike reaction.

The Hoosiers gave an interesting twist to the starting lineup, announcing Garzon, Chloe Moore-McNeil, Sara Scalia and Sydney Parrish all as guards and the 6-foot-3 Holmes as a forward, not a center. They represent all of the most prominent scorers returning with the graduation of Grace Berger to the Indiana Fever of the WNBA.

Garzon, a tall guard at 6-3 and second-team All-Big Ten as a freshman, made her mark mostly as a three-point shooter last year. Moren has encouraged her to use her size more, and she went to the basket more.

“I’m trying to embrace it,” Garzon said of an expanded role. “I’m trying to attack.”

Attack on the court, but Garzon has much on her mind since her home country was attacked Oct. 7, putting family members — all safe at last report — in danger in an escalating war. Her heart is also with the hostages taken by Hamas.

The next opportunity for IU could be one of the challenges of the year, against a historically big-time Stanford program led by coach Tara VanDerveer, who brought 1,034 wins into the season.

“Defense is going to be a big thing,” Bargesser said.

And maybe free throws.

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