#14 Indiana women’s basketball survived another Big Ten test and defeated Penn State 75-67 in Assembly Hall earlier tonight.
The win moves the Hoosiers to 5-0 in conference play for the first time ever and sets the stage for a huge showdown with #3 Iowa, also unbeaten in league play, Saturday.
Here’s three things:
Shaky first quarter
The start of tonight’s game will go down as the weirdest of Indiana’s season. Check this out:
Tip-off goes as usual but the officials halt play immediately after because Sydney Parrish forgot to take out her earrings.
Parrish leans over the scorers table to frantically pluck out the piercings but isn’t allowed back into the game right away, thrusting Jules LaMendola into action.
LaMendola, who is also experiencing this odd moment in real time, checks in and turns the ball over three seconds into the Hoosiers’ first possession. Not great, but can you really blame her?
Parrish subbed back in during the turnover dead ball but Indiana remained sluggish and shot just 6-16 (37.5%) with seven turnovers in the first ten minutes. Penn State led, 21-17, after one.
Indiana would eventually pull away with a 19-6 run to end the third quarter despite letting the early issues linger. Season-high 20 turnovers for the Hoosiers in this one.
A handful of those mistakes were unforced, but credit to the Nittany Lions. They went on the road and hung with a heavyweight for 40 minutes.
The middle of the conference is really, really tough this year. We’re getting great games nightly on the Big Ten WBB circuit.
Whole Lotta Lex
Lexus Bargesser, Indiana’s first guard off the bench, played 20+ minutes for a third straight game tonight and continues to improve.
The sophomore saw the floor for 23 minutes against Penn State and helped Indiana solve a Nittany Lion defense that proved tough in the first half. Bargesser and her fellow guards transitioned from perimeter shooters to slashers in the second half and that Teri Moren adjustment is what won Indiana the game, imho. More on that in a second.
Bargesser didn’t score any points but her ability off the bounce helped catch hard-committing PSU defenders on their heels. She made life down low a lot easier for Mackenzie Holmes, who finished the 100th start of her career with a 21-point, 13-rebound double-double.
Bargesser was even more effective on the defensive end with two rebounds, two steals, and a block. A weapon in transition, two of her three assists came on the break during the aforementioned 19-6 Hoosier run.
I love the change of pace Bargesser brings to the floor. Versatility is something Indiana’s benched lacked in years past... not anymore.
Sydney Parrish: Option A?
Earring incident aside Sydney Parrish was fantastic and scored 20+ for a third straight game. 15 of her 20 points came in the second half as Parrish became the focal point of Indiana’s offense down the stretch.
Parrish began playing with the ball more in the third and beat rotating defenders to get to the cup on multiple times during the frame. Driving with the ball is an aspect of Parrish’s game I wish we saw more of and we got it tonight.
Indiana was only 4-14 (28.6%) from deep, good for its worst three-point performance since December 9 at Rutgers, but Parrish stayed hot and knocked down a pair of triples.
Parrish’s arc in this tilt tracks with the team’s collective game so well. Strange start, but held firm and withstood a bunch of body blows. She finished with six boards, three steals, a block, and multiple fouls drawn through heavy contact.
Parrish also made eight of her season-high ten free throw attempts. In a game that saw Indiana shoot 21-27 (78%) from the stripe and Penn State just 12-23 (52%), Parrish getting to the line was the difference in the end.
Bonus fourth thing: Chloe Moore-McNeil! CMM dealt with an injury in the second half but toughed it out and scored ten of her 16 points in the final twenty minutes. Moore-McNeil is growing as a scorer every day and is one of five (5) viable final shot options IU’s starting lineup boasts.