Ranked in top 10 for first time, Indiana looks to keep going

Sports

Indiana coach Teri Moren has guided her team to new heights this season.

The No. 10 Hoosiers achieved their highest ranking ever Monday and are sitting in second place in the Big Ten with two games left in the regular season. She’s proud of what they’ve accomplished in her seven years at the helm of the program, including a WNIT championship in 2018 and two NCAA Tournament appearances.

“We’re grateful and it says a lot about our staff and the work we’ve done and how we’ve tried to go about our business in building this thing brick by brick and not miss steps along the way,” Moren said in a Zoom interview Tuesday. “The players have embraced our vision of what we want Indiana basketball to look like.”

The team has come a long way from when Moren was a young girl, growing up in Southern Indiana. She was a diehard fan of the Indiana basketball team. The men’s one that is.

She would attend men’s games with her family when she was a kid and was a big fan of coach Bob Knight. She has a constant reminder of the Hall of Fame coach in her office as a picture of his infamous chair-throwing incident hangs by the door. Moren said it’s the last thing she sees before heading to practice.

As far as the women’s team, they just weren’t very good. Times have changed, as Moren has built the program into a blue-collar team that focuses on defense and is a consistent Top 25 team the last few seasons, appearing in the poll for 35 consecutive weeks. Before that, the Hoosiers had been ranked for a total of six appearances.

“We pride ourselves in our toughness and ability to be gritty,” said Moren, who has spent her whole coaching career in the state, at Indianapolis and Indiana State before arriving at Indiana in 2014. “Sometimes muck it up and make it ugly.”

The Hoosiers (16-4) have a balanced offense, and with 14 Big Ten victories are sitting one win short of the school record set in 1983. Indiana has won seven straight games and 11 of its last 12.

The players have clearly bought into Moren’s system and are proud of the legacy they are leaving on and off the court.

In pre-COVID times, the team — win or lose — would spend 20 minutes after home games with fans and being mentors and role models to young girls. That connection has continued even though fans haven’t been able to attend games this year because of the coronavirus.

There are many social media posts of young girls wearing their hair in a braided style similar to senior guard Ali Patberg.

Being an inspiration is something that she takes seriously.

“It means a lot. I was a little kid dreaming about playing college basketball,” said Patberg, who grew up 30 minutes from campus and also attended Hoosier men’s games as a youth. “I want to play basketball the right way, Be the best teammate I could be. Be the best leader. I wanted people, especially little girls, to see that.”

They have noticed.

Led by Patberg, Indiana is a lock to make the NCAAs this year ,and the team is in good position to have their best seed ever — surpassing the No. 6 seed the Hoosiers were in 1983. They have never made it to the Sweet 16 and hope to change that this year.

“My first year we were waiting for selection Monday to see if we were even going to get in,” Patberg said. “To get to this point for me, to be a part of a program that has gotten better each year is really cool. Being 10th is cool, but isn’t our ultimate goal. We still have a lot to accomplish this season.”

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More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/Womenscollegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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