After starting 6-0 in Big Ten play, No. 5 Indiana women’s basketball lost its first conference game Monday night in a 65-60 defeat to No. 6 Michigan. In its first game back from a 15-day hiatus due to COVID-19 protocols, Indiana’s offense shot 33% from the field and 21% from beyond the arc, unable to match Michigan’s offense.
“We’re not a program that makes excuses, but I did think we looked like a team that had been off for a couple weeks,” head coach Teri Moren said after the game. “Really I thought (we were) rusty and had no real rhythm, no fluidity in anything we did offensively.”
Michigan quickly went on a 9-0 scoring run to begin the game, but Indiana was able to surge back through a strong defensive effort toward the end of the first quarter and tied the game at 21 in the beginning of the second quarter.
“They came out and punched us, and I thought we responded,” Moren said.
The Hoosiers never took the lead, but kept the second quarter close to enter halftime down by only two points. However, the tide didn’t turn the Hoosiers’ way out of the break, and they only scored six points in the third quarter to the Wolverines’ 16.
Moren said she thought Indiana lost the game in the third quarter, while Michigan took the opportunity to extend its lead to 48-36 going into the fourth quarter. Indiana trailed by 8 or more points for the rest of the game.
“We just can’t dig that kind of a hole,” Moren said. “We gave up second, third shot opportunities, which was a little frustrating.”
Indiana was out-rebounded 52-20 by Michigan, and only five of Indiana’s rebounds were on the offensive end of the court compared to Michigan’s 14. However, Moren said she was most proud of the way Indiana’s defense played, highlighting contributions from graduate student guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary.
“I thought Nikki did a great job of heating the ball up and really trying to be disruptive,” Moren said. “We had some really good moments, defensively.”
Cardaño-Hillary finished the game with seven steals, making up half of Indiana’s 14 total, and she led the team with 16 points. She also largely contributed to forcing Michigan turnovers and disrupted the flow of Michigan’s offense.
The Wolverines entered Monday’s top-10 showdown averaging 15.7 turnovers per game. They already had 17 turnovers by halftime and finished the game with 25. For all the trouble the Hoosiers had shooting the ball, they gave up just 11 turnovers.
“We’ve got great defenders, we know what we’ve gotta do,” Cardaño-Hillary said. “We do the little things, and that’s how the game goes.”
However, Indiana’s defensive efforts were unable to make up for its offense, which struggled with layups and three-point shots alike. Indiana’s 28 points in the paint highlighted the absence of junior forward Mackenzie Holmes, who dominates in the paint when she plays with her team-leading 17.9 points per game.
Holmes has not played since Jan. 5 after sustaining a knee injury and underwent successful surgery on Jan. 20.
“Some of our shots that we normally make, they’re not falling,” Nicole Cardaño-Hillary said after the game. “Sometimes you just have games like that. I don’t want to make up excuses for us, but we just need to be better.”
Moren said without Holmes on the court, Indiana loses chances at both scoring and rebounding. With Holmes unavailable, Moren said she’s looked for the rest of the starters to step up.
“They’re going to have to make up almost 20 points and eight rebounds,” Moren said. “That’s what we’re losing with Mack. And so each of them are going to have to do a little bit more.”
In the loss to Michigan, Indiana ended multiple win streaks, including an undefeated run in Big Ten play for the 2021-22 season. However, Moren said the team is sticking to its “24-hour rule” to feel bad for themselves, and then they will move on to focus on their next game.
“I’m always proud of my kids, because the effort is always gonna be there,” Moren said. “They’re gonna fight you to the bitter end.”
Indiana returns to Assembly Hall to face Minnesota on Thursday, set to play at home for the first time since Jan. 13. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on B1G+.