May 9, 2023 

State of the Program: Indiana regroups after magical season comes to premature end

The Hoosiers were upset by Miami (FL) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament

Indiana felt destined to make a Final Four run in 2023. The Hoosiers proved themselves to be elite time and time again in the Big Ten, beating top-15 opponent after top-15 opponent. With Grace Berger and MacKenzie Holmes complemented by the shooting of Sara Scalia, Sydney Parrish and Yarden Garzon, it was hard to see how Indiana wouldn’t advance that far.

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But alas, Holmes injured her knee in the Big Ten Tournament, forcing her to miss the Hoosiers’ first NCAA Tournament game, and Indiana played uncharacteristically in its second-round matchup against the University of Miami, a 70-68 loss and a crushing blow to end the year.

Asked to reflect back on the season, head coach Teri Moren talks uninterrupted for four minutes. From the injury to Grace Berger in the Las Vegas Invitational helping the team grow closer together, to huge wins over Ohio State, Maryland, Iowa and Michigan, to the stunning defeat to Miami, there’s much to discuss.

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“The thing I keep reminding myself and our staff and when I do get around our players is that the last game can’t define the great season that we had because it was so many great moments,” Moren told The Next. “It’s a stinger, no doubt because our plans were to get to a Final Four but still don’t want to take away what we were able to do and accomplish with this group because we did have seven returners, but we also had seven newcomers. We had lost three starters the year before, so to be able to do what this group did I think was quite special.”

2022-23 record: 28-4 (16-2 Big Ten), lost in the second round to the University of Miami, 70-68.

Big Ten finish: 1st

Notable wins: @ Tennessee (79-67), vs. North Carolina (87-63), vs. Maryland (68-61), @ Michigan (92-83), vs. Ohio State (78-65), @ Ohio State (83-59), vs. Iowa (87-78).

Departures: Grace Berger (WNBA), Alyssa Geary (graduation), Kiandra Browne (transferring), Mona Zaric (transferring).

Additions: Jules LaMendola (first-year), Lenée Beaumont (first-year).

Key returners: MacKenzie Holmes, Chloe Moore-McNeil, Sara Scalia, Sydney Parrish, Yarden Garzon.

While only losing one starter from the 2022-23 roster, Berger is no easy loss to overcome. Arriving at IU before Moren had turned the program into a perennial NCAA Tournament team, she became a focal point to the evolution of the Hoosiers into a top-tier program.

Despite moving on to the WNBA, where she was selected seventh overall by the Indiana Fever, her legacy in Bloomington persists.

“None of this is possible without Grace Berger in terms of how we continue to build this program,” Moren said. “You had to have a special player, and she was that special player that took a chance on us five years ago to come in here and help us turn this thing around.”

In her final season, Berger averaged 12.9 points per game, shot a career-best 40.7% from beyond the arc (though on just 27 attempts), and averaged 5.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds. But it’s far more than just the standout statistics that she leaves behind.

“The gift that Grace gave those players was what it should look like every single day,” Moren said. “I don’t remember ever having to say, ‘Grace, that needs to look different, and it needs to look harder and faster, and there needs to be more pace in your movement.’ I’ve never had to say that to Grace Berger. She just always approached everything like that, like it was the last play of the game. All great players do that.

“Her legacy will be that she helped us win a Big Ten championship that hadn’t happened in 40 years; we’ve never been a No. 1 seed in an NCAA Tournament in the history of Indiana women’s basketball. All the accolades she shares with All-Big Ten, certainly being a draft pick, but I think what she leaves us with is things that the fan, they don’t get to see.”

When Berger injured her knee over Indiana’s Thanksgiving-week invitational against Auburn, the Hoosiers’ highest aspirations felt a bit more unattainable. After all, Indiana had already lost three starters from its 2021-22 team; losing Berger for any prolonged stretch meant thrusting some unproven players into huge roles.

Enter Chloe Moore-McNeil.

Previously an off-ball guard with great length and speed but only two career starts entering the season; she became Moren’s most valuable player during Berger’s eight-game absence.

“Talking to our players at the end of the season in their individual meetings, they felt like that moment where Grace got hurt, and we didn’t have her for a stretch there, they felt like this group really came together, and it made them stronger as a unit,” Moren said. “Chloe was certainly a major part of that. You could tell, whether it was timeouts, halftime, practice, she started to really come into her own in terms of her voice and leading.”

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Moore-McNeil’s growth, paired with the emergence of Garzon as a lethal threat from 3-point range and the shooting abilities of Parrish and Scalia, vaulted Indiana to one of the top offenses in the country.

It was all part of a deliberate plan from Moren and her staff last offseason.

“We knew that in order to do what we wanted to do and get further than we’ve ever gotten, we had to surround (Holmes) with shooters, or other teams defensively were just going to pack it in,” she said. “Sure enough, give credit to our staff that we were able to secure those kids that could give us the outside punch that we needed for this season.”

And they’ll all return in 2023-24.

Indiana hasn’t brought in any transfers this offseason but welcomes two 6’1 first-year guards into the mix: Lenée Beaumont and Jules LaMendola.

LaMendola was named Texas Ms. Basketball, and Beaumont received the same honor in Illinois. With so much returning talent for the Hoosiers, their roles in their first seasons are unclear, but Moren’s excited about what they both can bring.

“Jules, we feel like she can play multiple positions,” Moren said. “She can easily play the stretch four also. But certainly, she can play the one, the two, the three and the four. Has great size. Strong. Will do anything. She will rotate. Take charges. She is an energy player. She plays with passion and emotion which I love.”

Meanwhile, Beaumont’s already drawn comparisons to two Indiana greats.

“Some people have compared her to a Tyra Buss, Grace Berger combination,” Moren said. “The biggest thing for Lenée is she’ll just need to gain strength. Not that she’s not working on that right now, but I think the pace of play and the strength factor for a freshman are usually the biggest adjustments that they have to make in order to play at this level.”

Both will certainly have talented role models to look up to as well, as the program continues to embark on its first Final Four appearance in school history.

Though the Hoosiers don’t have the luxury of returning their same five starters next season like the Iowa Hawkeyes did this past season, they can look no further than Iowa City to see what can happen a year following a team’s second-round NCAA Tournament exit.

While this stretch in May serves as a chance for everyone in Bloomington to catch their breath and rest, some of the players were out in Colorado last weekend for a 3-on-3 event. Everyone returns next month for a “jam-packed” June, as Moren described it, before a 10-day trip to Greece over the summer.

Indiana’s mission remains the same: compete at the highest level and take the program to unprecedented success.

“Looking forward to getting everybody back here on campus,” Moren said. “Looking forward to having another really great year here in Bloomington.”

Written by Eric Rynston-Lobel

Eric Rynston-Lobel has been a contributor to The Next since August 2022. He covered Northwestern women's basketball extensively in his four years as a student there for WNUR and now works as a sports reporter for the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire.

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