While there’s no shortage of shooters for the No. 16 IU women’s basketball team, it looks as if head coach Teri Moren’s squad has an emerging threat inside the paint after its season-opening 100-51 win over Eastern Kentucky University.
Junior forward Aleksa Gulbe may be the returning starter in IU’s frontcourt starting 31 games last season, but it was her new partner down low that made a big impact for the Hoosiers on Wednesday. In just the third start of her college career, sophomore forward Mackenzie Holmes led the team in scoring with 26 points — and she did it without missing from the field.
“She’s really good with her back to the basket — uncanny good,” Moren said of Holmes. “I watch her be able to score through traffic, with two people usually in close proximity, and still be able to split defenders.”
Holmes led the team in scoring just five times last season as a freshman, and now she holds the single-game program record for highest field goal percentage one game into her sophomore campaign. Despite one missed free throw after being fouled on a made layup in the second half, Holmes went a perfect 13-for-13 from the field.
Eastern Kentucky sported a 2-3 zone defense, forcing IU to pass the ball along the perimeter most of the game. The Hoosiers converted on just nine of their 26 shot attempts from three-point territory, but the more effective answer to the opposing zone was feeding Holmes near the basket.
“We’re not getting the ball inside the way we need to,” Moren said, citing concerns from a preseason intrasquad scrimmage. “I felt like we were settling for a lot of shots beyond the arc and I just felt that our advantage was on the inside.”
It wasn’t just scoring where Holmes made her presence felt in the win. In 21 minutes of action, Holmes tallied 8 rebounds, 7 blocks and a pair of steals that led to fastbreak chances at the other end of the floor to go along with her game-high 26 points.
Holmes said she spent a lot of time in the offseason working on her jumpshot and extending her range, but she never had to shoot the ball more than a few feet from the basket Wednesday. With refined footwork and a variety of post moves at her disposal in the paint, Holmes has the potential to develop into a Swiss Army knife for IU’s offense this season.
“(Holmes) was probably a little bit disappointed that she couldn’t stretch out today and at least attempt a three,” Moren said. “She’s a terrific low-block post player but we’re going to see her throughout the season step out and do some things facing up too and that’s exciting.”