In the team’s first home game of the season and first home regular-season contest in front of fans since February 2020, No. 8 Indiana women’s basketball defeated the No. 13 University of Kentucky 88-67 Sunday afternoon in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
The crowd was a factor in the game from the very start. Junior forward Mackenzie Holmes scored Indiana’s first 11 points, capped off by a 3-pointer, her first and only of the day. Holmes said the fans provided a major boost to the team.
“I think that's the type of crowd we need every single game,” Holmes said. “I think that we've worked so hard that, hopefully, we want those people who came to them for the first time watching our team, I want them to come back.”
Holmes added 2 more points at the end of the first quarter, scoring 13 of her 29 points in the opening period.
“My teammates were finding me, so that's always helpful,” Holmes said. “I knew that we could get some early transitions and the girls did a great job. I was getting open looks, so I tried not to force much. It was a good momentum starter for us, it propelled us.“
As the first half drew to a close, Kentucky scored on a basket and a foul to cut the Indiana lead to just 3 points with a few seconds to play. With no time to drive down the court and set up a play, senior guard Grace Berger heaved a double-clutch shot from half court, banking it in off the glass with zeroes on the clock to double the Indiana lead to 6 at halftime.
Berger’s desperation 3-pointer to close out the first half was not a shot she is accustomed to taking.
“I’m not practicing half-court shots, and when I do I’m pretty bad at them,” Berger said. “The basketball gods were on my side today with that one.”
The half-court shot from Berger proved to be the momentum boost the Hoosiers needed in the second half, as the team took a game that was close in the first half and turned it into a blowout.
Indiana outscored Kentucky 50-35 in the third and fourth quarters, pulling away thanks to a fast-paced offensive attack. Pushing the tempo on the offensive end of the court has been a point of emphasis for the team, which later helped Indiana take a commanding lead in the second half of the game.
“I think we just outlasted them,” head coach Teri Moren said. “I talk about endurance, but really we just kept telling Mack [Holmes] ‘Just keep running, just run, and Nicki [Cardaño-Hilary] and our guards will find you with some hit aheads,’ and that was the case, for sure.”
The win for Indiana, double-digits over a ranked rival, could prove to be a massive one for Indiana late in the season, potentially playing a factor in NCAA Tournament seeding.
Despite potential postseason implications, Moren is focused on the present and not the future.
“We’re a program that we’re gonna take it one game at a time,” Moren said. “As long as we’re doing what we have to do, then all of that other stuff will take care of itself, that’s just how it works.”
Next up for Indiana is at 7 p.m.Tuesday against Norfolk State University at home. The game will be on BTN Plus.