BLOOMINGTON — In its two recovery home games this past weekend after being stunningly battered by Stanford, the Indiana University women’s basketball team clobbered Murray State 112-79 and Lipscomb 77-44 at Assembly Hall, and much of the thank-you confetti could be showered on Sara Scalia.
Scalia, who transferred to IU from Minnesota last year, is a fairly quiet presence generally, except when scorching opponents with 3-pointers launched from State Road 46.
A sometimes starter and key performer last year, Scalia is a 5-foot-10 senior, but a new sense of her value beyond her beyond-the-arc shooting is on display. She has been showing more of an all-encompassing game, passing, driving, defensively, as well.
Against Murray State on Friday night, Scalia scored 22 points, collected four rebounds and passed off for three assists. On Sunday afternoon, Scalia scored 24 points and had six rebounds and five assists.
“Sara had a big day,” Hoosiers coach Teri Moren said following the Lipscomb game. “She had herself a night tonight.”
Indiana finished 28-4 last year, and all key players but one, Grace Berger, now with the Indiana Fever of the WNBA, returned. That left some playing time to be grasped, and Scalia said she worked her butt off to make sure she was the one who could play a more significant role.
“I knew I had to step in and be an all-around player, be more aggressive,” Scalia said Sunday.
The Hoosiers began the season ranked No. 9 in the nation, then got crushed by Stanford 96-64 on the road to induce doubt. They dropped to No. 18 in The Associated Press poll.
Although IU is 3-1 with all three victories at home by large margins, Moren has kept the Stanford debacle in the forefront of her mind while also thinking ahead to Thanksgiving evening’s matchup with perennial power Tennessee (3-1) in Fort Myers, Florida. She has stressed more what the Hoosiers did wrong than right in the most recent wins. Not good enough on free throws, she said, in a 96-43 triumph over Eastern Illinois. Not good enough on defense against Murray State.
“A little bit better defensively,” Moren begrudged her team after holding Lipscomb of Nashville, Tennessee, to 44 points. “I thought we had some really good moments.”
The Bisons (3-2) probably thought IU had more than a few good moments, such as the entire second quarter when the Hoosier lead expanded from 18-14 to 39-18 at the half. Overall, Lipscomb was held to 30.9% shooting.
This was a game where it seemed Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes, the 6-3 All-American, who finished with 23 points and nine rebounds (after going for 20 and 10 against Murray State), might have gone for 50 if the Hoosiers just kept feeding her. Taking to heart Moren’s message, though, Holmes spoke more about D.
“We knew our defense needed to be better,” Holmes said. “We know we have to keep stacking those good days on defense.”
The Hoosiers have moved the ball in a bewilderingly sharp manner for another team to defend in the half-court game. Holmes is a weapon ready to go off at any time, and teammates look for her in the low post. But IU, which had 23 assists against Lipscomb, played the inside-out game well, too, with passes back out to perimeter shooters like Scalia, who nailed four three-pointers, and Sydney Parrish (two).
“I love the way we’re sharing the ball,” Moren said.
Moren was able to give fairly extensive playing time to everyone in both games, though starting guard Parrish dropped out of the rotation versus the Racers when she tweaked a hamstring. Parrish started against Lipscomb and looked sharp until the fourth period when she landed awkwardly and seemed to reinjure the hamstring. Moren said Parrish is basically OK, but she played with a wrap on her leg and might have to be cautious in the coming days.
Scalia has been more than OK recently. She put in extra offseason work, and Moren knows it, citing her Scalia’s summer prep and preseason practice. Citing Scalia’s “hustle and heart,” Moren said, “I just loved her effort tonight.”
Two big W’s since Stanford on Nov. 12. A necessary part of the get-well treatment plan. When IU stifled Murray State, Scalia said, “The big thing was being able to bounce back after the tough loss.”
Scalia wrote out the prescription for the cure.