Indiana women’s basketball can force all the stops, turnovers and mistakes it wants on defense. It can frustrate teams in the paint, keep shooters from going for it and get the ball back when it wants.
But if it can’t capitalize on those chances on the other side of the court, it can’t compete. Thursday’s loss to No. 2 North Carolina State University proved that.
This was a team Indiana beat in the NCAA Tournament last season, when NC State was a No. 1 seed. It came into Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall hungry for revenge and left with an 8-point win. NC State was a wolf in wolves’ clothing, it had all the size and speed a team can ask for.
Women's basketball: [No. 6 Indiana women’s basketball struggles offensively, loses to No. 2 NC State]
Not only that, but any member of the aforementioned pack could score at any given moment. With four of its players finishing the game scoring in double-digits, not one NC State player stuck out on the box score. Indiana often found itself chasing down shooters at the last second and NC State’s 3-pointers fell 35.3% of the time.
NC State could also turn to its bench, which added 21 points, when it needed to. Indiana, on the other hand, got just 8 points out of its bench with sophomore guard Chloe Moore-McNeil scoring 6 of those points.
Junior forward Mackenzie Holmes, Indiana’s “when in doubt” option, led the team with 24 points. Nobody else had more than 10. Holmes is an offensive force in the paint. That being said, no one player can defeat a team.
Indiana scored just 9 points in the first period. Those points were the result of two field goals from Holmes and senior guard Grace Berger, free throws from Holmes and a 3-pointer from Moore-McNeil.
Facing tenacious defense from the lengthy NC State team, Indiana’s shooters had a hard time getting open. Even when they did, shots weren’t falling. Indiana averaged just 16.7% from the field in the first quarter.
Women's basketball: [No. 6 Indiana women’s basketball falls to No. 2 NC State 66-58]
Indiana’s defense proved stout in holding NC State to just 11 points. NC State wasn’t helping itself with six turnovers in the first quarter, but Indiana scored approximately zero points off of those turnovers.
Indiana adjusted in the second quarter, scoring 8 points off of five turnovers. On top of that, Indiana took its first lead thanks to a 3-pointer from Holmes just under four minutes into the second quarter.
Indiana looked to have its offensive issues figured out at the beginning of the third quarter, scoring 8 points in the first four minutes. Meanwhile, NC State began to chip away until taking a lead. Gulbe took it back just 17 seconds later with a 3-pointer.
Then came a mistake-filled three-minute scoring drought to end the quarter.
Graduate student guard Nicole Cardano-Hillary turned the ball over on an errant pass, adding two more turnovers before and after as well. Indiana attempted four shots, none of which fell as NC State went to work. The Wolfpack scored 6 points during Indiana’s drought, beginning the fourth quarter with a 4-point lead.
Indiana went all-out in the fourth quarter, scoring 24 points in an attempt to pry the game back from NC State. The offensive burst went hand-in-hand with a defensive shrug as NC State scored 28 points.
To its credit, Indiana showed fight in the end, it wasn’t going down without one. In spite of the scoreboard, they still played as though it were the first quarter. A particularly loud NC State fan sitting — I’m kidding, he stood up for like the entire game — behind me said as much.
“Man, they not giving up.”
When the final buzzer sounded, the smiling faces of NC State players passed by the somber ones of Indiana’s as the Hoosiers stood for the playing of the alma mater. The Wolfpack left with a signature win in a rowdy away environment. The Hoosiers left facing more questions than answers.