Indiana women’s basketball played its first game in 15 days Monday after multiple players dealt with symptoms of COVID-19. In the team’s return to play, Indiana was once again without its top scorer junior forward Mackenzie Holmes.
And boy, the Hoosiers sure played like it.
Of all games for this series of unfortunate events to coalesce upon, a matchup with No. 6 Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was probably the worst-case scenario.
Indiana began the game in sluggish fashion, allowing 9 points to Michigan before scoring its first basket two minutes into the first half. The Hoosiers missed shots, lost track of the ball and got outworked on the other end of the court.
Say what you will about the Hoosiers: they lack a productive bench, they can be turnover-prone. Whatever.
What Indiana does have, though, is fight.
The Hoosiers can be outrebounded, outshot, or just plain outmatched, but they’ll go down swinging all the way. The funny thing about swinging? Sometimes, that momentum carries you back up.
That resilience defined the first half against Michigan. Indiana was out-rebounded 23-9 in that time, picked up a steady stream of fouls thanks to Michigan’s physical style of basketball and allowed Michigan senior forward Naz Hillmon to score 11 points.
Despite all of that, Indiana ended the first half down by a mere 2 points, 32-30. A low-scoring affair, yes, but one that Indiana was absolutely in. One layup or field goal away from a tie or lead.
How did the Hoosiers get there?
Well, Indiana wasn’t the only team playing error-prone, slapdash basketball full of carelessness. Michigan had a whopping 17 turnovers in the first half alone. The 17 points Indiana scored off those turnovers provided more than enough to hang around.
For the first half, at least.
Michigan is a very, very good team. A contender not just in the Big Ten, but a group worthy of making a deep NCAA tournament run. It’ll make the right adjustments, and those proved to be enough in Indiana’s 65-50 loss.
The Wolverines began to take control after halftime, thanks in no small part to just four third-quarter turnovers. The Hoosiers weren’t able to score against this new, mistake-averse version of their top-10 opponent and were held to just 6 points in the third quarter.
That’s when Michigan seized control of the game again, scoring 16 points to leap back to a sizable 48-36 lead as the quarter ended. But Indiana kept doing its thing, swinging in an ultimately vain attempt to reclaim its previous momentum.
But it simply wasn’t meant to be. The Hoosiers shot the ball on just about every possession in the fourth quarter, trying desperately to find hope in the encroaching, unfamiliar embrace of defeat. Only six of Indiana’s 19 field goal attempts in the fourth quarter fell, a 31.6% mark.
A swing and a miss.
Again, Indiana hadn’t played for over two weeks before Monday’s game and was missing its most physical scorer against the most rough and tumble team in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers will return to the gym and work to win with what they’ve got. They’ve done it before, and they can do it again.
The sun will rise tomorrow, and it’ll shed light on the Big Ten Tournament and the postseason, which are just on the horizon.