As the IU men’s basketball team heads home from North Carolina after its Big Ten/ACC Challenge win, the women’s basketball team will follow to the east coast for its own battle against an ACC opponent.
The 2-3 Hoosiers will face off against the 5-2 Virginia Cavaliers at 7 pm today in Charlottesville, Va., for the fifth edition of the women’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
IU Coach Felisha Legette-Jack said she knows this will be the Hoosiers’ toughest opponent yet.
“They’re a fantastic team,” she said. “We’ve got to be 100 percent focused and unified to go up to their house and beat them, and we’re preparing to do that.”
IU is 2-2 overall in the annual challenge. The Hoosiers won in last year’s battle, beating Clemson on the road by a score of 65-51.
This will be only the third matchup ever between the Hoosiers and the Cavaliers. The last time the two universities faced off, Virginia won in the Bahamas for the Junkanoo Jam on Nov. 26, 2009. The final score was 84-79.
This will be IU’s first matchup of the season against a major conference foe, but Virginia has already faced that level of competition. In their fourth game of the season, the Cavaliers beat then-third-ranked Tennessee in overtime 69-64. They faced then-22nd-ranked Texas in their next matchup, losing 79-53.
Endurance is one way Legette-Jack is preparing her squad for Thursday’s battle. She acknowledged after this past Friday’s loss to Toledo that she did not properly prepare her players and took full responsibility. With tougher practices this week, Legette-Jack said she doesn’t plan on letting that happen again.
“We’ve got more cardiovascular involved with transitions,” she said. “When you’re teaching them, you’ve got to be able to cardiovascularly get them ready, too, and so we’ve done a lot of that the last couple days, and they’ve responded quite well.”
Legette-Jack also said with such a young team, they’ve eliminated a lot of the players’ talking in practice to teach them focus.
Senior forward Georgie Jones has helped lead the young Hoosiers so far. As one of the two team captains, she has served as an example for her teammates with her performance on the court. She has recorded three double-doubles this season and is just short of averaging one at 10.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
Jones said she prefers such performance leadership over the vocal type.
“I think that as a leader, you want to be vocal, but honestly, you want to lead by example, too,” she said. “If you lead by example, that’s showing that I do make mistakes, but you’ve got to learn how to play through them and not drop your head. I just like to give 100 percent effort because I think that if I can show them that if you work hard, you get results, that will hopefully motivate everybody.”
Starting today, five of IU’s next seven matches will be on the road. Jones sees the challenge as an opportunity for the Hoosiers to show their mental toughness.
“We’re in the same boat, so it’s basically going through the same things, coming off of losses, so it’s basically whoever has more heart,” she said of Virginia. “But I think we’re going to show up, too. It’s always tough being on the road, but that’s when you’ve got to work even harder.”