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Indiana Women’s Basketball Transfer Breakdown: Sara Scalia

What the Minnesota transfer brings to IU women’s basketball.

Minnesota Gophers lose to the Michigan Wolverines at home.
Scalia drives for Minnesota
Photo by Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Hello Hoosier fans!

Welcome to the second installment of our Indiana women’s basketball newcomers series. This week we’ll be taking a deep dive into transfer Guard Sara Scalia.

Backstory

Scalia comes to IU after three seasons at the University of Minnesota. The Stillwater, MN native is the Golden Gophers’ all-time leader in free throw percentage (88.8), and ranks seventh in program history in threes made with 214. Last season she scored 17.9 points per game and shot 39.6-41.3-91.5 on the campaign.

Indiana fans should remember the name, as one of Scalia’s best performances last year came during Minnesota’s visit to Assembly Hall. She hit seven threes en route to 26 points as the Golden Gophers nearly upset 5th-ranked IU. The highlights from that one are always worth a watch.

Breaking it down

Sara Scalia is coming to Indiana because Sara Scalia is a three point specialist. Hitting the deep ball has not the Hoosiers’ forté as of late, so head coach Teri Moren used the portal to add a long-range assassin. Last year Scalia was second in the Big Ten in three point attempts (269) and makes (111) for a 3PT% of 41.3, which was fifth-best in the league. She’s a top-tier shooting guard, and to get a better understanding of why, we went to the film room.

Scalia is effective as a shooter because she doesn’t need a ton of time to get a shot off. Minnesota used ball screens to get her separation really well last season. All it took was a split-second of hesitation from the defense in terms of switching or staying and the ball was already through the net. Getting into a rhythm is such a big part of three point shooting and Scalia uses what the defense is giving her to dictate hers. It really works.

Screens (both on and off-ball) were a big part of Scalia scoring 592 points last year, but that doesn’t mean she’s reliant on teammates to get good looks. Most often, it’s #14 creating a shot for herself. As I mentioned a moment ago, she’s really good at reading her defender and taking what she’s given. This means that late in possessions, she matches up against fatigued opponents and takes them out of the play with a simple but effective v-cut. A couple steps inside the arc, a deceptively hard plant and boom. She’s catching a pass from 24 feet out, unperturbed.

Off the dribble she isn’t necessarily going to blow by anyone, but Scalia has a couple moves that she can drive with consistently. My one interesting note here is that despite being a righty shooter, she predominantly dribbles with her left. This forces her stepbacks to look super emphatic because she needs a little extra space to pull the ball across her body. It makes AND1-type plays look more AND1-ier, it’s really something.

Defensively she’s fine. Much like the subject of our first breakdown, Alyssa Geary, most of the film available is against UConn which makes defensive highlights hard to come by. The Huskies had some success forcing Scalia to run through razor screens and across the entire defense to stick with Azzi Fudd, but everyone UConn plays has problems with that. Scalia is not a liability defensively.

Above all, if there’s one thing you need to know about Sara Scalia, it’s that she has the greenlight from wherever:

That happens... a lot. She can and will pull up from anywhere this side of the timeline and while they don’t always go in, she rarely misses badly. Giving the good three shooter a player comp of Steph Curry feels a bit cliché but it’s warranted here. Scalia got Curry range!

Usage and expectations

Scalia is here to shoot threes. Her previous experiences with B1G basketball make her a prime candidate to emerge from a very crowded Guard stable and start alongside Grace Berger (I would bank on it, but it’s also June and the incoming freshmen guards look really good too so who knows. We’ll get to them later). She’ll be expected to hangout beyond the arc and attempt as many shots as she can.

The respect Scalia garners from opposing defenses should open up the middle, making life in the post much easier for Mackenzie Holmes. Compared to the past few years the offense will look quite different. Given the personnel changes don’t be surprised if we see more shot attempts per game and an overall increase in pace of play. We’d love to see Scalia become a more opportunistic defender (quick doubles and steals), but a consistent 15-20 points per night from the portal will be more than enough. Scalia’s potential to catch fire in any given game will make IU WBB must-see TV all season long.