Indiana women’s basketball is in Florida over Thanksgiving Break to compete in the Fort Myers Tip-Off at Suncoast Arena.
The Hoosiers will face two legitimate tests in No. 19 Tennessee and Princeton, which is receiving top-25 votes. Other teams participating in the event include Arkansas, Oklahoma, Boston College, Marquette and Wisconsin.
The event is the highlight of Indiana’s nonconference schedule with a neutral site game against Maine and a few buy games left on the Horizon before Big Ten play sets in.
Here are a few things to watch ahead of the event.
Sara Scalia’s streak
Sara Scalia has been on a tear this season since re-entering the starting lineup, currently leading the Hoosiers in points per game with 18.5.
The revelation has been how she’s been scoring. Coming to Indiana out of the portal in 2022 as a 3-point specialist, Scalia has found other ways to get buckets through Indiana’s first few nonconference matchups.
She’s been able to push the pace on offense and attack the rim in transition, pull-up for a few midrange shots and, of course, fire away from the arc. She’s a better all-around offensive player than she was a year ago.
If she can keep things up she’ll be problem 1B for opposing teams alongside Mackenzie Holmes’ 1A.
After Stanford, Tennessee is the most critical nonconference matchup on the Hoosiers’ schedule for a few reasons.
For one, the brand. The Lady Vols are one of the most historic programs in all of college basketball and carry that history with pride. Which is why it was fun to see Indiana go into their house last year and thoroughly control the game from tip to the final buzzer.
Which brings us to part two. Tennessee might want revenge for that loss on its home floor and could have some extra energy they wouldn’t ordinarily have. Indiana can’t get caught sleeping here.
The Vols’ offense is averaging a balmy 92 points per game through four contests. Tennessee hit its stride in the postseason last year and has lived up to expectations thus far this year. Their sole loss is by a single point to fellow top-25 squad Florida State.
Indiana can probably keep up with Tennessee on offense, but can it defend well enough this early to keep the Vols at bay?
It’s the second chance for Indiana’s younger players like Lexus Bargesser, Lilly Meister and Henna Sandvik to show what they can do off the bench against top-tier competition. The same can be said of freshmen Jules LaMendola and Lenée Beaumont, though their roles will likely come with additional time.
LaMendola is a bench option for Garzon, both being tall guards who can shoot from deep. Bargesser can push the pace on offense and handle the ball in lieu of Chloe Moore-McNeil or even alongside her in some lineups.
Indiana’s going to take some time to figure things out and it’ll be interesting to see how the second unit is deployed in Florida.
Princeton is a serious threat here and Indiana should know that better than most. The (admittedly underseeded) Tigers upset Kentucky at Assembly Hall back in 2022 and pushed the Hoosiers to the limit in the second round.
The early nonconference slate included wins over Duquesne, Middle Tennessee State and the University of San Diego. All of which pushed Princeton more than expected.
... Then Princeton went and did the same to No. 3 UCLA on the road in a 77-74 loss. Indiana can’t really afford an early season loss like that to get where it wants to go. Regardless of the outcome against Tennessee, the Hoosiers need to be ready.