Because both the men’s and women’s basketball programs figure to at least hover around the AP Top 25 polls this season, I’m going to do my best to recap all of the prior week’s basketball action along with the release of the poll and some commentary on how IU is ranked/not ranked.
Indiana Women’s Basketball Ranked #4 in latest AP Poll
At 2-0 with an impressive win over then #13 Kentucky, it’s clear that Teri Moren’s 2021-22 team is not afraid of the expectations many have for this season. The number four ranking is now the highest in program history, besting the preseason number eight ranking that was previously the program record. And one could easily argue that they are still slightly underrated, considering the fact that two of the teams ranked above them, Maryland and UConn, have not yet played a ranked opponent.
Indiana opened the season on the road against Butler with an 86-63 victory behind Nicole Cardaño-Hillary’s 29 point night. Cardaño-Hillary, currently in her second season with the Hoosiers after transferring from George Mason, was nearly perfect on the night, missing only one of her 12 shots. Grace Berger contributed 18 points as one of four Hoosiers to score in the double-digits and became the 29th player in program history to reach the 1000-point mark in her career. Moren acknowledged that the defensive effort wasn’t stellar in the first game, but applauded her team’s unselfishness as they recorded 24 assists on the night.
On paper, Indiana’s second game at home against #13 Kentucky should have been much closer, but the final score ended up being almost as lopsided as the first game as the Hoosiers beat the Wildcats by a score of 88-67. Mackenzie Holmes had team highs in points (29) and offensive rebounds (3), cementing her status as one of the best players in the country this season. Cardaño-Hillary had another strong performance, adding 12 points and hitting three of her five three-point attempts on the night. Grace Berger also hit a half-court shot as time expired in the first half to give the Hoosiers a six point lead at the midway point. Berger finished with 19 points, good for second on the team behind Holmes.
Indiana is back in action tonight hosting Norfolk State in another early-season matchup. Norfolk State is 2-1 on the season after losing 86-48 to #21 Ohio State.
Men’s team still second in receiving votes
Mike Woodson has hit the ground running as a college coach, starting 2-0 with wins over Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois. Some thought the Hoosiers might crack the top 25 since both Michigan State and Virginia, the two teams ranked immediately ahead of them in the preseason poll, both suffered losses in the opening week of the season. Indiana’s first two wins were apparently not convincing to voters though, and the Hoosiers remain on the outside looking in for this week’s rankings.
Despite coming out to a hot start in the first half of the first game, Indiana showed that the coaching change didn’t immediately cure the team of all the issues that have plagued them over the last few seasons. Indiana shot just 16.7% from three in their opening contest against Eastern Michigan, which allowed the Eagles to creep back into the game in the second half. Also concerning is the fact that Indiana only shot 60% from the charity stripe in their opening game. As will likely be the case for the entire season, Trayce Jackson-Davis led the team in minutes (37) and points (21). Parker Stewart was the only Hoosier to hit more than one three-pointer, making half of his four attempts on the night.
Indiana showed some improvement in their second game, an 85-49 victory over Northern Illinois, shooting 34.8% from distance and 76.7% from the free throw line as a team. Indiana’s scoring was a little more balanced, with three players in double digits and three more players with seven points. Woodson was able to play every scholarship player in this game, so the stats probably don’t answer questions about minutes distribution going forward. Still, it was encouraging to see younger players like Khristian Lander and Anthony Leal contribute in this game. Both Lander and Leal hit three pointers too, which means Woodson will have some options off the bench if the shooting woes continue.
While the shots haven’t been falling yet for Mike Woodson’s team, it’s nice to see guys like Rob Phinisee, who appeared completely broken mentally last season, find the confidence to take five three-pointers like he did against Eastern Michigan. The shooting struggles were never going to disappear overnight, and they are unlikely to ever improve if players remain afraid to take shots. Indiana will be back in action tomorrow night at 8, hosting St. Johns in the Gavitt Tipoff Games.