The women’s basketball travels to one of college basketball’s most famous gyms this weekend, as it opens its season at the Indiana Classic against host Indiana at Assembly Hall tomorrow at 6 p.m. The Red faces its first Big 10 opponent in program history in the Hoosiers, and will play either North Texas or Indiana State on Sunday.
“Playing at Assembly Hall, where Bobby Knight coached, I think there’s a lot of excitement for our players right now, and going out to the Midwest, it’s a different brand of basketball,” said head coach Dayna Smith. “They get a packed house, so the environment is going to be something that our players haven’t seen too much of and it’s big-time college basketball for women’s college basketball. We’re looking forward to enjoying the trip and see what we can learn about ourselves.”
The Red is coming off a 10-17, 4-10 Ivy season, the first with Smith at the helm. The team graduated two forwards from last year’s squad, in Lynell Davis ’03 and Ify Ossai ’03, but returns its entire backcourt. The trio of senior captains Karen Force, Lauren Kilduff, and Katie Romey leads an experienced and talented group of players. This will be a homecoming of sorts for Force, who is from nearby Columbus, Ind. While all three captains will be starting at guard, the Red will look to seniors Dani Aretino and Tanya Karcic to start at forward.
“We haven’t really focused in on a true starting lineup, we have a staring six or seven rotation, we have a few injuries that we’re trying to manage right now, so we’re going to have to see who’s healthy and who can go, and we’ll be flexible in what we need to do,” said Smith.
Last season, Force became the first junior in program history to be named to the All-Ivy first team. She was fifth in the league in scoring, averaging 15.1 points per game. Kilduff and Romey started in half of the team’s games last season, while Aretino started in 19 contests. Karcic’s playing time was limited last season due to injury, but she comes into the season fully healthy and ready to contribute.
Indiana’s head coach, Kathi Bennett, served as an assistant coach for the silver-medal winning USA Pan American Games team this summer. She and the Hoosiers look to return to the NCAA tournament, as it swept through the 2002 Big 10 tournament en route to winning its first ever Big 10 title and a trip to the NCAA tournament. Last season, the Hoosiers fell to Penn State in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
Indiana will be without its only senior, Jamie Gathing, who is out for the entire season due to injury. The Hoosiers are the fourth-youngest team in the nation, and could start two freshmen against the Red.
“We know Indiana is a Big 10 team, they have a lot of size, they can get up and down the court, and they’re going to be more physical than us just from a beginning standpoint, but we’re going into this season we’re excited to get going, to play against somebody else other than our own teammates,” said Smith.
Indiana State made it the National Invitational Tournament last season, falling to Ball State in the first round. The Sycamores return seven letterwinners from last year’s squad, which claimed a share of the Missouri Valley Conference title.
North Texas advanced to the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference tournament, before falling to Western Kentucky. The Lady Eagles are led by Sun Belt Player of the Year candidate Kim Blanton, who led the team in scoring and offensive rebounds a season ago.
The Indiana Classic is the beginning of a tough stretch of non-conference games for the Red.
“These games coming up are going to be a great test for us, the most important thing is that we have toughened up our schedule, and we did that for a purpose. We need to learn from these teams, we need to learn to play at a high level, to get up for games, and I think in the end, when we face our Ivy League opponents, we’re going to be much more prepared this season,” said Smith.
The Red will travel to Pennsylvania on Tuesday to face St. Francis. The team will play its home opener on Dec. 5 at the Cornell Classic against Bucknell.
Archived article by Jonathan Auerbach