Sitting Spreen, Indiana All-Stars open series with 90-79 victory on foreign soil

LEXINGTON – Indiana’s Miss Basketball Chloe Spreen attacks a defender during the All-Star clash with Kentucky on Friday night. Spreen scored 12 points as Indiana posted a 90-79 win.

By Justin Sokeland

LEXINGTON – Relegated to cheerleader or assistant coach status much more than she wished or anticipated, Bedford North Lawrence’s Chloe Spreen had the displeasure of watching most of the All-Star series opener from a place she hates – the bench. She’s a girl of action and energy, so sitting with foul issues was totally frustrating.

Her teammates had her back. Even with Miss Basketball on the sideline for the majority of the minutes, Indiana had more than enough weapons to conquer Kentucky on Friday night.

Jennings County’s Juliann Woodard, a longtime rival and friend, came to the rescue, scoring 23 points as the Hoosiers held off Kentucky 90-79 on foreign soil, starting the home-and-home series with a solid victory and setting up a chance for the first Indiana sweep since 2016.

Spreen, limited to 16 minutes before fouling out, totaled 12 points, and Jordyn Poole added 19 points before exiting with a bruised cheek as Indiana took a 54-41 series lead. Indiana has recorded 15 sweeps since this rivalry debuted in 1976. Can’t win two (as Indiana’s team shirts declare on the back) without the first one. So even with the marquee star unavailable for a huge chuck of time, Indiana had more stars to fill that void.

Spreen is not a physical foul artist, although her most famous early exit came in the 2023 state championship win. She felt a little snakebitten, and perhaps it was a bad omen when her family had a flat tire on their vehicle en route to Lexington Catholic. Wearing that No.1 jersey might have made her a target, but Indiana handled all that adversity with grace and a team mentality.

LEXINGTON – Indiana’s Juliann Woodard scored 23 points as Indiana won the series opener.

“I’m glad we came up with the win,” Spreen said. “Every time I got going, I got set back. That game didn’t go my way, but I knew the team would pull it out.”

Indiana had two key spurts, and Spreen was present for those. The first came midway through the second quarter, with Kentucky holding a 32-29 lead. Spreen started a 14-2 run with a slap-away steal and a driving transition basket off a Woodard pass. Poole added a 10-footer in the lane, Woodard swished a trey, and Reagan Wilson popped a perimeter bomb as Indiana surged to a 43-34 lead that it would never surrender.

Spreen was whistled for her third and fourth fouls in the first 2:18 of the third quarter, but that’s when Woodard stepped forward in a hero’s role. She dropped a turnaround in the paint, buried a trey, and banked home a shot while hitting the deck for a 3-point play.

“Juliann is just a tough, tough kid,” Indiana coach Andy Maguire said of the Michigan State recruit. “I’ve come to love that girl this week. She’s like Kevin McHale. It’s not fast, but it’s really good. She’s just tough and strong, the kids really respect her on the floor. She had an outstanding game.”

Spreen came back for two close-range buckets early in the fourth quarter as Indiana worked to a 76-68 advantage, then she was whistled for her fifth (as she was shoved out of bounds in a scrum for a rebound) with 7:12 left. Kentucky could not take advantage of her absence as Woodard stroked a baseline jumper and Wilson added the dagger shot, a trey for an 84-75 lead with 3:10 left. Kentucky didn’t convert a field goal during the closing minutes.

LEXINGTON – Indiana’s Reagan Wilson looks for a gap in the defense. Wilson scored 11 points.

Woodard hit three treys and collected 6 rebounds. She describes her game as “versatile” and that was accurate. She might not totally understand the McHale reference, since he was a Celtics standout with Larry Bird in the 1980s, and she self-deprecating claims to lack culture, but her performance – a lot of pump fakes and basketball intelligence – was old-school effective.

“I’m just one of 13 (on the Indiana roster),” she said. “I do my role and try to do my best. I’m just me. I just play basketball.

“Chloe has been our glue, so we had to figure it out. We had to stay the course, ramp up the enthusiasm and energy.”

Shaelyn Steele, a Penn State recruit, led Kentucky with 25 points, Destiny Jones had 15 points and 11 rebounds (including eight on the offensive glass) and Reagan Bender totaled 12. Trinity Rowe, Kentucky’s Miss Basketball, managed only five points, and Kentucky was guilty of 25 turnovers. Kentucky was 26 of 35 at the foul line in a game that was slowed down by 44 total fouls.

Indiana will now seek the sweep on Saturday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Spreen views it as a shot at personal redemption before she departs for Alabama and her college career.

“That is our goal,” Maguire said. “Since 2016 is too long for Indiana. Our goal is to finish the job.

“Obviously we want to have Chloe out there as much as we can. Chloe has been a tremendous leader. Losing her out there is not just her basketball ability, it’s her leadership. Luckily we have other good leaders. I was really proud of our subs. In little spurts, every kid gave us something.”

“We’re all ready for this game, playing in front of our home crowd,” Spreen added.

In the boys game, Kentucky pulled away in the final 10 minutes for a 103-82 win, Kentucky’s largest margin of victory since 1997

Indiana’s Mr. Basketball Flory Bidunga was slapped with a technical foul (for taunting) following a dunk with 10:26 left. The technical was his fifth foul. Kentucky owned a 68-66 lead when he exited.

Max Green paced Kentucky with 36 points. Jack Benter totaled 16 and Keenan Garner added 15 for Indiana. Bidunga had 13 points in only 13 minutes on the court.

LEXINGTON – Chloe Spreen drives past Trinity Rowe, Kentucky’s Miss Basketball, en route to a bucket.
LEXINGTON – Indiana guard Jordyn Poole had 19 points and 6 assists in the win over Kentucky.