Indiana women’s basketball beat Penn State 70-40 Monday night in a matchup featuring physicality, quick passes, steals and 3-pointers. Graduate student guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary played a key role in each one of those areas.
Cardaño-Hillary led the Hoosiers with seven rebounds and five assists. She scored 14 points for the third-highest point total on the team and shot 50% on 3-pointers with 3-of-6.
She entered the game against Penn State after going 0-10 against No. 2 North Carolina State University. Despite the difference in her success in the two games, Cardaño-Hillary said she felt like nothing really changed.
“The mindset is always the same,” she said. “It’s just the difference of the shots falling.”
Cardaño-Hillary totaled the most shots for the Hoosiers, with 12 shot attempts from field-goal range, six of which were 3-point attempts. She went 5-12 and 3-6, respectively. Against N.C. State, she was 0-6 in 3-point attempts.
“It was nice to see Nikki, the way she bounced back after having a tough night,” head coach Teri Moren said.
Indiana’s defense held Penn State to only 40 points, playing a key role in victory. Junior guard Makenna Marisa scored 21 of those, and no one else on the team scored more than 8 points. Penn State finished the game shooting 34% to Indiana’s 51%.
Indiana also forced 22 turnovers from Penn State, and as a result put up 24 points off those turnovers.
Cardaño-Hillary was instrumental in defense as much as she was on offense, with five steals and seven rebounds. She led both teams in those categories, despite being the shortest player on court at 5-foot-6.
“She creates havoc,” Moren said. “She doesn’t make anything easy when she’s on the ball.”
Moren credited Cardaño-Hillary’s defensive skills before the season even started, saying she was a key part of Indiana’s “stingy” defense.
She didn’t let up under the net or at the mid-court line, and Moren credited some of that confidence to her shots falling early in the game.
“When they see their shot go, it seems like that does something for them defensively as well,” Moren said. “I think everything elevates when you see that shot go down.”
In every game they have played this season, the Hoosiers have trusted their teammates and stayed confident in their abilities. After Cardaño-Hillary’s performance, junior forward Mackenzie Holmes said she had the utmost confidence in Cardaño-Hillary’s ability.
“Nikki is a shooter,” Holmes said. “She can shoot the ball anytime she touches it. She can miss seven, and I’ll have confidence she’ll make the eighth every time.”