Bench Players Ruling the Court
Dec. 11, 2009
Written by IUHoosiers.com contributor Jeremy Rosenthal
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - What does a team do when they graduate four players, two of which are now playing professionally, and another that is one of the best in the history of the program?
This happened to the Indiana women's basketball team and they have responded by developing into an extremely deep team.
Last year the Hoosiers averaged 7.9 bench points per game. This year, through nine games that number has exploded to 23.9 points per game. In three of their wins this year the bench production has been over 30 points.
The team is without 2009 graduates Amber Jackson and Kim Roberson, who are playing professionally in Spain and South Korea. Whitney Thomas, only the second player in school history to total at least 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds now sits in the IU bench as a student assistant coach.
Junior Andrea McGuirt said she thinks the depth gives her team a big advantage over opponents.
"Teams can't zone in on a player because they know there are other sparks that come from different places," she said. "That makes it a lot more difficult for teams to beat us."
Many players have had breakthroughs, which is contributing to the success of the team.
Junior point guard Whitney Lindsay came off the bench and scored 13 points in a win against then No. 21 ranked Michigan State last week.
Lindsay said she comes in and tries to calm her teammates and play well in key situations.
"I know what it feels like to be at the end of the game and have that pressure," she said. "I finish well under pressure and I think as a point guard that is a good thing to have, to be able to handle the pressure at the end of those games, because a lot of our games are going to be close games this year. We are not going to have easy wins in the Big Ten, not even against the lowest teams in the conference. It's going to be a dogfight every game."
Sophomore Danilsa Andujar has also seen her minutes increase and is making the most of the opportunity. In the Hoosiers second game of the season Andujar recorded six points, four rebounds and two steals.
Andujar said she learned a tremendous amount from Jackson and Thomas last year.
"I feel as though Amber and Whitney definitely challenged me last year, which improved my game all around. I was ready to play last year and it just so happens that this year I am able to play more minutes and I am pumped. I'm experienced enough to play against Whitney and Amber, who lead the Big Ten in a lot of categories. My minutes have increased, my playing has increased, my heart has increased, and everything is rising. I need to continue that."
McGuirt said although the team does not have a lot of experience they bond well together.
"We are definitely close on and off the court," she said. "We are a young team, so we are just building the camaraderie each game, getting more experience, and going out each successive game."
Part of building the camaraderie at games is a pre-game ritual modeled from an idea they received from a participant of their summer camp this year.
Before every game the team circles around Sasha Chaplin, as she chants "I'm fired up. You fired up? Eh."
"Sasha will chant it and we all jump around her and it gets us pretty hyped for every game," Andujar said. "That is something we have come up with on our own and it brings us together and we know it's time to, let's get it."
With increased energy, the team will try to use their youth to their advantage this year, by playing with a competitive fire.
"You get pushed in practice," McGuirt said. "You know you are not entitled to anything, because we have people who are going to come in and contribute and give good minutes. You know that your spot is being challenged everyday. We are making each other better and holding each other accountable in every practice, which translates into games."
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