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Indiana women’s basketball: North Carolina primer

Back-to-back Hoosier victories over UNC soon come?

Syndication: The Herald-Times Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

Indiana women’s basketball will be back in action tonight when they host the North Carolina Tar Heels in Assembly Hall. The undefeated Hoosiers enter the Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchup at fifth in the AP poll, and UNC (also undefeated) currently sits one spot behind them at sixth. Here’s everything you need to know about the top-ten clash:

No Grace Berger

Indiana will be without their best player for the foreseeable future. Graduate guard Grace Berger suffered a knee injury during IU’s 96-81 victory over Auburn at the Las Vegas Invitational on 11/25:

The specifics of the injury are unknown, and Berger will be out indefinitely per head coach Teri Moren. The Hoosiers handled #34’s absence just fine in their final game in Vegas, a 79-64 win against Memphis, but UNC is a much more formidable foe. Indiana’s success over the next little bit will be largely determined by the play of Oregon transfer Sydney Parrish, who will be replacing Berger in the starting lineup. Parrish’s promotion will likely mean increased minutes for fellow guards Kaitlin Peterson and Lexus Bargesser as well.

Who are the Heels?

Like Indiana, the Heels are also undefeated. They hold a 6-0 record through six games and beat both #19 Oregon and #8 Iowa State at the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon, last week. The PKI wins were UNC’s closest of the year; they edged the Ducks 85-79 on Thanksgiving before they dispatched the Cyclones 73-64 this past Sunday. Their other four victories have come in the form of blowouts.

North Carolina is led by fourth year head coach Courtney Banghart. Banghart is best known for her tenure at Princeton, where she turned the Tigers into perennial Ivy League contenders and NCAA Tournament qualifiers. She’s already started to find success in Chapel Hill, too. UNC has made the tournament in back-to-back seasons, and reached the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2015 last year.

Carolina went 25-7 overall and was 13-5 in conference play a season ago. They lost to Virginia Tech in the ACC Quarterfinals and were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by the eventual champion South Carolina. Then-sophomore guard Deja Kelly was a First Team All-ACC honoree last year, and received the same recognition on this year’s preseason team.

Kelly currently leads the Heels in scoring with 17.8 points per game. She’s also averaging a team-high nine free throw attempts per game. Preventing Kelly from getting to her spots without fouling will be among IU’s toughest tasks tonight.

Other North Carolina players to look out for include junior guard/forward Alyssa Ustby and redshirt senior guard Eva Hodgson. Ustby leads the team in rebounding with an average of 8.3 per game, and Hodgson has a team-high 27 assists through six games.

What happened in Vegas...

Indiana spent their Thanksgiving break in Sin City competing in the Las Vegas Invitational. In-season events like the LVI have been a staple on the IU schedule in recent years... but this one was weird! Check out the court they played on:

The event was held in the ballroom at The Mirage. College basketball is no stranger to casino ballrooms, but most games held in that type of setting have legitimate spectator seating, medical personnel on-site, and towels available for the players. The LVI had none.

This entire event was embarrassing, disappointing, and quite frankly a step in the wrong direction for women’s sports. To think that a top-five program like Indiana would agree to play in it is surprising, were the LVI staff used car salesmen in a past life? Very possible.

As frustrated as we may be by the whole thing, the Invitational was last week. It’s time to return to the present, and focus all energy on Packing the Hall for the second night in a row. As always, students get in free! Tipoff’s at 6pm, be there or be square.