Waiting the hardest part for IU women in San Antonio

For the past week, the Indiana women’s basketball team has been a caged animal — literally and figuratively.

The 12th-ranked and fourth-seeded Hoosiers spent their first three days in San Antonio under quarantine, only leaving their hotel rooms for COVID testing, before finally emerging for practice and some fresh air on Saturday.

But it will have been 11 days since they last played a game, and seven days since the NCAA Women’s Tournament selection show, by the time IU takes the UTSA Convocation Center court at 2 o’clock Monday afternoon for a first-round matchup with 13th-seeded VCU.

“Our kids are anxious and eager to get back on the floor,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “I love where their mindset has been the last couple of days. As hard as it’s been to be confined to the hotel, the times we’ve been in practice, I loved where their focus was. We are chomping at the bit to get on the floor.”

A loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals has made the wait even longer and more excruciating.

“I have a bunch of fighters and kids that can’t wait to get back on the floor,” Moren said. “I don’t know if right or wrong is the right term, but they want to do better, they want to play better, and they know they are capable of playing so much better. That’s the thing we’re looking for.

“It’s just waiting has been the most difficult. After a loss like that you want to get back on the floor as quickly as you can. Although this time off has probably been good from a physical standpoint, from a mental standpoint it’s been hard, because we’re ready to go. We want to play, like now.”

And, in a way, the Hoosiers (18-5) have been waiting a lot longer than that to play in the NCAA Tournament.

“Last year was canceled, so we’re just thankful and grateful that we’re here,” senior guard Ali Patberg said. “We’ve worked two seasons now to be where we are. We’re ready to go.”

Patberg is Indiana’s resident postseason expert, having had experience with both Notre Dame and IU during her career.

Sophomore Mackenzie Holmes, on the other hand, is thrilled by her first Big Dance.

“Being here means everything to me,” the Hoosiers’ leading scorer said. “I’ve dreamed of playing in the NCAA Tournament since I was a little girl. Anybody who is a female athlete or basketball player has that dream. Just the fact it’s coming true is super surreal.

“I’m here and this is all I ever wanted and this is why I play the game.”

Just being there is hardly enough for Indiana, which has never made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Hoosiers have greater goals and aspirations, but reaching those starts with finding a way past the Rams (16-10), who won four games in four days at the Atlantic-10 Tournament to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009 when Bloomington South grad Beth Morgan Cunningham was the coach.

“When you get to this stage, every team presents challenges,” Moren said. “You wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t had a good season, but VCU is a very hot team right now. And they’ve had some time, as we have, to prepare. Normally you don’t have seven or eight days to prepare for a team.

“This is a talented team, led by two seniors. They have an inside presence, they have balanced scoring, so we have to be who we are. We hang our hat on the defensive end and feel like our preparation has gone very well this week. We feel like we have a sense of what we have to do. My staff does such a great job, but at the end of the day our players have to go out and execute on both sides.”

The Hoosiers know they used up their mulligan against the Spartans. Starting with VCU, each game is for keeps, and practices suggest that message has been taken to heart.

“The other day, Coach said, ‘It’s OK to play with desperation,'” Patberg said. “We know that we’re going to have to leave it all out there every game or we’re not going to be here as long as we want to be here. The energy — everyone here’s on a mission. Everyone’s going after the same goal. You can feel it when we practice on the floor. It’s all an experience, and we’re here to win, but also take it all in and enjoy every moment.”

Indiana would enjoy winning most of all, regardless of why or how long they’ve had to wait.

“We’ve had to be structured, as we’re used to, practice and film,” Moren said. “That’s where our focus should be. This is not a vacation. This is very, very much a business trip for the Hoosiers.”

4 comments

  1. Jeremy,, thanks for the article Im guessing the team is as ready as they can be even though rust is expected to start. Love your use of the “mulligan” which fits. Thanks for this article and insight of the team. Seems like the night before the 500, looking for the ladies to get back on track,,, Go Hoosiers!

  2. Has your brother had anymore Brad Stevens wearing an IU shirt sightings?

  3. IU Ladies again throwing up and missing 3 ball during half one instead of going inside to Holmes… though maybe trying to open defense and backfires …maybe get away with it this game…If IU Ladies play a second game there will be no sweet 16 as probably Gonzaga will outshoot IU Ladies and IU Ladies fall behind. IU Ladies look as though Michigan State was no upset. I don’t see all these pre-game comments as IU Ladies are ready by T. Moren unless they are saving a good game plan for game # 2.

Comments are closed.