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Hoosiers savoring sweet opportunity in San Antonio

Notes ahead of Saturday’s Sweet 16 showdown against No. 1 NC State

Indiana v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

There’s a 24-hour rule inside Indiana’s women’s basketball program. Wins can be celebrated and losses can be lamented, but only for a short time — and for no longer than 24 hours.

This week in San Antonio, enforcement of that rule has been more lax than usual.

That’s because IU coach Teri Moren recognizes the significance of the moment, the fact that the No. 4 Hoosiers are playing in their first Sweet 16 in program history. Since beating No. 12 Belmont in the second round on Wednesday, Indiana has taken time to enjoy its arrival on an unfamiliar stage.

“It’s been a really cool experience for us, my staff and our players,” Moren said. “Indiana basketball is basketball, and so we have a tremendous following there in the state with our family and our friends and the alums. Isiah Thomas tweeted, ‘Hoosiers!!’ yesterday on his social media feed, so there are a lot of eyes right now on Indiana women’s basketball.”

And a lot of messages flooding Moren’s phone.

It’s to the point now where the IU coach can’t keep up with the incoming congratulatory texts and emails. A range of folks have reached out to Moren over the past 48 hours, including former players, colleagues, supporters and other university luminaries.

For a program that was once an afterthought, both locally and nationally, the Hoosiers are enjoying the shine that now comes with being a part of Indiana women’s basketball.

And they don’t want it to go away just yet.

“Our goal coming into the season wasn’t to get to a Sweet 16 and stop,” guard Ali Patberg said. “We have bigger goals and we’ve had those goals. We understand that life is short and we want to enjoy all the steps that we take and all the milestones we reach. ... It’s been cool and it’s been fun to get to the Sweet 16, but our goal is a lot higher.”

IU has inside source on NC State scouting

When Moren hired Ashley Williams as her third assistant last June, she didn’t realize she was getting a super scout for the NCAA Tournament.

And yet, that’s exactly what Williams has become this week.

Williams, a recent addition to the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Thirty Under 30 up-and-coming coaches list, is a former NC State player who knows coach Wes Moore’s system as well as any other. She was a senior the last time the programs met, an 84-70 NC State win in a 2016 ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup that saw her log 22 minutes.

And in the two full days IU has had to prepare for the Saturday evening tipoff against the No. 1 Wolfpack, Williams has been tasked with breaking down exactly what the Hoosiers can expect to see.

“Outside of coaching and wanting the Hoosiers to win, I’d say that NC State is her second favorite team right now when we’re not going to play them,” Moren said. “So, obviously, she’s a kid that is passionate about that place. She has a terrific story; a walk-on that earned a scholarship and became a starter. I know that she loves Coach (Moore). The nice thing for us is that I think we kind of have an advantage because she is the lead on the scouting report. She has a little bit of insight on how she can prepare our group on tendencies that we’re going to see come Saturday against an outstanding basketball team.”

A look at the Wolfpack

The No. 1 seed in the Mercado region, N.C. State is playing for its first Elite Eight berth since 1998. Four players are scoring in double figures, including 6-foot-5 junior center Elissa Cunane (16.3), 6-foot sophomore wing Jakia Brown-Turner (13.7), 6-foot-1 senior forward Kayla Jones (11.9) and 6-foot-2 sophomore forward Jada Boyd (11.2).

NC State ranks sixth nationally in defensive rebounds per game (31.1), 11th in field goal percentage (.469), 12th in scoring margin (+15.8) and 22nd in rebound margin (+7.6).

For IU, which gave up 11 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points to Belmont on Wednesday, limiting extra opportunities is the No. 1 point of emphasis atop Moren’s to-do list.

“We’ve proven in the last couple games that we can guard in the halfcourt quite well,” Moren said. “But what we haven’t done a good enough job of is keeping other teams (off the glass).”

No. 4 Indiana (20-5) vs. No. 1 NC State (22-2)

What: Mercado Regional Semifinals | Sweet 16

When: Saturday, 6 p.m. ET

Where: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas

Broadcast: ESPN2 (Ryan Ruocco, Rebecca Lobo, Holly Rowe) | WHCC 105.1 FM Bloomington (Austin Render)