IU women’s basketball saw its New Year’s Eve dreams come true as it wrapped up the year with a 79-56 win over Illinois, marking the third straight Big Ten conference win for the Hoosiers.
“There are no easy games in the Big Ten,” sophomore forward Mackenzie Holmes said. “Every game is going to be a battle, so it is important to get off to a good start and get back in the gym every day to figure out things we need to work on and keep progressing on the things we did well.”
The first quarter ran rampant with turnovers as both teams struggled to control the ball. The Hoosiers accounted for three turnovers in the first quarter while the Fighting Illini tripled IU’s stat with nine turnovers.
Although the game was off to a slow start, junior guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary was not after sinking two 3-pointers later in the quarter. The Hoosiers held the Illini to single digits and ended the first quarter 23-9.
Despite a rough first quarter, Illinois seemed to find energy at the beginning of the second, cutting IU’s lead to 11 after a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Jada Peebles. However, the Illini were unable to stop Cardaño-Hillary and Holmes, who maintained the Hoosiers’ substantial lead. Cardaño-Hillary sank another 3-pointer with fewer than three minutes remaining while Holmes was fouled with one second left and made one of two free throws.
“We need her scoring,” head coach Teri Moren said about Cardaño-Hillary. “I don’t know that we were surprised that she was able to knock down shots today. We have seen that in practice.”
The Hoosiers finished the half strong leading 42-20.
After the half, IU’s energy did not falter as it continued to dominate Illinois. The Illini struggled to keep up with the Hoosier pace, which was apparent when Holmes beat Illinois to the net and finished off the third quarter with an easy layup.
Adding to Holmes’ and Cardaño-Hillary’s overall efforts, junior guard Grace Berger began the final quarter with a 3-pointer which marked the beginning of a five-point streak for Berger.
Cardaño-Hillary continued to find her footing in the game and drew an and-1 completing her contribution of a season-high 14 points. Cardaño-Hillary has averaged 2.7 points per game so far this season.
“My teammates help a lot with that comfortability,” Cardaño-Hillary said. “The experience of playing in these kinds of games is what helps me. I am here to help the team, so whatever I can do to do that, I will.”
Cardaño-Hillary was the third highest scoring player in the game after Berger, who had 15 points, and Holmes, with 18 points. The Hoosiers shot 48% from the field compared to Illinois’ 39%, giving IU the 79-56 victory.