Even as a freshman, Larryn Brooks' Indiana teammates had come accustomed to their starting guard taking the lead scoring the ball, but as of late, Brooks had hit a slump. As the Hoosiers struggled late during their Big Ten slate, losing five of the team's last six regular season conference games and falling to Michigan by 25 in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, Brooks' shots weren't falling.
Her team-high 11 points helped IU pull off a narrow one-point victory against Belmont in the first round of the WNIT, but it was the first time she had hit double-figures in nearly a month. Yet, coming into her team's second round WNIT matchup against Marquette last week, her coach Curt Miller still had all the confidence in the world in her, and it made a difference.
"In practice before the game, Coach every time I got the ball, he told me to shoot it and that I was going to get out of this slump," Brooks said. "He just kept giving me that confidence, and my teammates as well. Everybody was telling me ‘This is your game. You're going to go out and score like you usually do.'"
But against Marquette, her game was much better than average. Brooks scored 33 points, the second-highest game for a freshman in IU women's basketball history – a record she herself holds from a 37-point performance earlier this season against Virginia Tech. The freshman guard hit a career-high 12 shots, including four 3-pointers, and was a perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the charity stripe.
And in what has been a magical season for IU's star freshman, she said isn't ready for it to end yet, as the Hoosiers take on conference foe Northwestern Thursday at 7 p.m. in Assembly Hall for a third round WNIT matchup.
"In the post-season, everybody wants to win, and you've got to know that as a freshman. You have to get on the bandwagon, cause it's going pretty fast," she said.
With at least one more game yet to play, Brooks holds the IU freshmen single-season scoring record with 511 points, and she currently sits ninth in IU history and is within reach of seventh with 22 points or more against the Wildcats. She also holds the IU freshmen record for free throws in a season (119) and is just four 3-pointers away from taking the IU freshmen title as well.
But the several games before her star performance against Marquette were a learning experience, she said. Her scoring slump allowed her to try and improve other facets of her game, making her a more complete threat on defense and feeding her teammates when she wasn't scoring.
"She was interested in trading baskets early in her career, and now she understands when her night isn't going offensively, how important it is for her to dig in and help us get stops," Miller said. "She understands she has to get other people involved when it's not her night for shots falling or when they're focusing so much on her."
As the Hoosiers take on a conference opponent Thursday, Brooks will have her hands full trying to take her momentum on. She scored just seven points in IU's lone game against Northwestern this season, a 58-52 loss where she was just 3-of-16 shooting from the field. Miller said Brooks and the rest of her teammates have struggled this season against conference opponents that know IU's game and tendencies better, and it will be key for his star freshman to bring her non-conference confidence to the floor against the Wildcats.
But teammate Tabitha Gerardot said that even during Brooks' shooting slump, she excelled in finding her and the rest of the Hoosiers, racking up the assists to move into second all-time for IU freshmen with 146 this season.
"When she can drive in and break down and get it to us, that's very valuable even when she doesn't score," Gerardot said. "She's very quick, so she breaks defenses down even if she's not going in and finishing every time. She can whip it out there."
Miller said he's seen Brooks' confidence from the Marquette game carry over into her practices this week, and he hopes she can bring this energy and scoring success against a Big Ten foe.
"I'm really happy for her to have a pep in her step again," he said. "She's played really well in practice recently, and so I think you'll see the Larryn you saw throughout the season when she was putting up big numbers."