COLUMN: No. 4 Indiana women’s basketball crushes Minnesota, just as everyone expected

Let’s face it, anything else could have been a disappointment. At this point in the season — given Indiana women’s basketball’s billing as the No. 4 team in the nation — blowing out the bottom three teams in the Big Ten is more of a guess than a possibility.

With all due respect to the state of Minnesota and the flagship university’s women’s basketball program, the Golden Gophers just aren’t a very good team. If the 2-8 conference record, now 2-9 after the Hoosiers’ 77-54 win, wasn’t an indication of their woes, look no further than Minnesota’s 18 first-half turnovers.

Some were a direct result of Indiana’s outstanding defensive play, but many arose from downright ugly attacking attempts. In the first half in particular, Minnesota players sailed high and wide passes, communicated on dribbling handoffs, and did just about anything to avoid success.

“We recognize that this is a very young Minnesota team and that comes with some hiccups and learning,” head coach Teri Moren said after the game. “[Indiana wasn’t]high-five down there in the locker room. We didn’t play well in our opinion.”

Various Minnesota offensive possessions in the first half, namely the two airballs in the first 90 seconds, resembled my middle school Rec-League roster, which was about as incoherent as it gets. The Hoosiers are not off the hook, however. They were able to ride to a win largely on an apparent talent advantage, but Wednesday night was arguably one of the sloppiest performances of Indiana’s conference games.

Maybe they just downplayed to the level of an inferior opponent? Perhaps the comically elevated floor at Williams Arena in Minneapolis Indiana gave it an unexpected rise. Whatever it was, the Hoosiers played less than perfect.

Case in point, Indiana’s third-quarter atrocity. They came out of half-time sleepwalking – passes missed, shots failed and defensive tasks were constantly screwed up. Minnesota’s lively core of underclassmen took advantage and took a 20-17 lead during that period.

The Hoosiers’ futility from the halftime and sometimes even the fourth quarter was a double-edged sword. While the lack of energy and determination was worrisome, it’s worth it that Indiana can seemingly take five minutes off and still win the game by 23 points.

Even in those periods of stagnation, elder striker Mackenzie Holmes could always be counted on to turn things around on the fly. She passed the Hoosiers in points by 28 on a paltry 12-14 from the field. Junior guard Sydney Parrish also showed her reliability, scoring 23 points of her own, thanks in large part to a 3-4 night from deep.

Parrish’s offensive versatility was particularly noteworthy, as in addition to driving and creating her own punches, she could spot and take down threes. The Hoosiers’ combined 17 turnovers stand out in the stats, and Moren emphasized that ball care needs to go up front.

It wasn’t exactly a traditional offensive night for Indiana, however. The two most erratic goalscorers outside of Holmes — graduate guard Grace Berger and freshman guard Yarden Garzon — combined for just a paltry 6 points against the Gophers.

One of the bigger storylines to enter the contest was the return of senior guard Sara Scalia, who had been a star for Minnesota in her previous three seasons. Scalia was initially greeted with cheers upon entering the game, but over time she was booed and taunted by the fans who had endlessly supported her in the past.

“We knew this was going to be fun for them and a good environment, but I was let down by the Minnesota fans,” Parrish said. “She’s done a lot for[Minnesota]and it really upset me to see that.”

Scalia had a calm performance, scoring just 10 points on 3-10 shooting, but her development over the 40 minutes was remarkable. With step back threes and hard-fought drives, she initially had clear intentions to show the Minnesotans what they were missing. When those methods proved ineffective, she stepped out of the spotlight and made real contributions on defense and off the ball.

The customization was impressive and also shows the wily veteran personality that this Indiana team embodies. In a game where so much went wrong for both teams, the Hoosiers kept their composure throughout. Despite the perceived shortcomings, I can’t stress enough that Indiana won by more than 20 points.

Especially if it wasn’t transparent from Moren’s comments, Indiana isn’t satisfied. And it shouldn’t be. There are about three weeks left in the regular season, and they have two more games to play against No. 6 Iowa.

Still, as everyone expected, the Hoosiers crushed a young Minnesota team. I think we can leave it at that.

Follow reporter Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Sebree (@mattsebree) and columnist Matt Press (@MattPress23) for updates during the Indiana women’s basketball season.

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