It's difficult to find positives in a second straight overtime loss, but if there was one for IU in its 71-69 loss to Northwestern, it was freshman forward Mackenzie Holmes.
Holmes’ 22 points and nine rebounds paced the Hoosiers in a game where the middle portion was a lot more promising than the bookends. When she got into a rhythm in the post, the offense found its groove.
“I would trade any stat that I have for a win,” Holmes said. “I guess the stat line doesn’t really matter at all if we don’t come out with the win.”
The two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week came off the bench in the first quarter and sparked production in a struggling offense. After falling behind 13-4 with a little more than three minutes to go in the first, Holmes rattled off five quick points within two minutes of entering the game to trim the deficit to four.
She scored IU’s final seven points of the quarter, and accounted for three of the four baskets IU made to lessen the deficit to a manageable 17-11.
The Hoosiers fed on Holmes' effort and used an 11-1 run in the second quarter to swing momentum in their favor, securing a 31-24 halftime lead. That lead grew to 10 points by the end of the third quarter and stretched to a game-high 12 early in the fourth.
IU led by eight with four-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game, but that lead vanished.
“What was working for us was when our ball movement was at a good pace,” head coach Teri Moren said. “But we got careless in the wrong moments, especially down the stretch.”
Sloppy play and highly questionable passes negated the hard work of Holmes and teammates such as sophomore guard Grace Berger who poured in 16 points and junior guard Ali Patberg who turned in a respectable bounce-back performance after a tough outing at Iowa.
With just under three minutes to go in the fourth, Holmes was hurried back into the game with the lead quickly slipping away.
Northwestern fought its way back and sent IU to its second straight overtime contest.
"They just pursued and were quicker to the ball than we were and that was disappointing" Moren said. “Careless turnovers, when I think about it, and careless decisions down the stretch.
It was Holmes again who gave the Hoosiers a boost in overtime, hitting two free throws to give IU the 66-65 lead. Less than a minute later, she converted a huge and-one that sent the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall crowd into a frenzy as IU took a 69-65 lead.
But in an ironic twist, not even Holmes could avoid the mistakes that plagued the rest of her teammates all evening.
Holmes left her assignment, senior forward Abi Schied, wide open for three to make it a 69-68 game. The shot sparked a 6-0 run that gave the Wildcats the lead for the first time since the second quarter.
“We can say she’s a freshman, but she should know better than that,” Moren said. “The kid shoots 46% from the 3-point line. We prepared and talked about that for the last two days.”
Then with seconds remaining, Berger forced a dump off pass to Holmes that was stolen by Northwestern, allowing it to run out the remaining time for the win.
The Hoosiers have much to figure out now, with back-to-back losses to good but unranked opponents.
IU’s tendency to fatigue quickly and lose focus on both ends could prove costly if it continues in conference, especially against a No. 20 Maryland team in their next game.
But at least they’ve got Mackenzie Holmes.
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