Three losses in four games. Five games in 10 days. All conference matchups, all important to Big Ten standings and momentum going into tournament play.
No. 10 Indiana women’s basketball has had a challenging few weeks, most recently facing now-No.21 Iowa twice and losing in both contests — which took place just 48 hours apart. Despite the return of junior forward Mackenzie Holmes, Indiana has not looked like the put-together team it once was in the beginning of the season.
“We were very disappointed after Iowa for a lot of reasons,” head coach Teri Moren said. “But what I told (the team) is we’re not going to be discouraged, because we did see moments where we looked like the Indiana team pre-Mackenzie Holmes getting hurt and being out, and we really felt like we kind of looked like our old selves.”
When Holmes and the rest of the Hoosiers were in top form, they defeated the Maryland Terrapins 70-63 in overtime in the beginning of January at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The win marked the first time the Hoosiers beat the Terrapins after 11 straight losses to them.
Indiana will travel to College Park, Maryland, for a rematch against the No. 13 team at 8 p.m. Friday, looking to end the regular season on a positive note. Indiana hasn’t played a game since Monday, and the three days of time between games is the longest preparation time Indiana has had in about a month.
Moren said the Hoosiers were able to take Tuesday off before beginning preparation for Friday’s game, and Holmes was able to have her first real practice since returning to play, which gave hope to Holmes and the rest of the team.
“For the first time in eight weeks, Mack was able to actually get up and down the floor,” Moren said. “I think that we’ve seen her, in each game, look a little more comfortable. But unfortunately it’s been having to do that inside of real life games.”
Holmes is still not up to 100 percent, and hasn’t had time outside of highly competitive games to get back in her groove.
“Mack is about 60 percent right now. Mack is not even close to being 100 percent,” Moren said. “However, Mack continues to look like herself more each game and that gives us great hope.”
Moren said she anticipates Holmes matching up with Maryland’s leading scorer, sophomore forward Angel Reese. Reese averages 17.6 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. In Indiana’s win over Maryland, Reese scored 22 points and 12 rebounds for her eighth double-double season. Reese now has 15 double-doubles.
“Where she gets you is on the offensive glass because she’s so long,” Moren said. “We feel good about being able to guard her one-on-one.”
Moren also said getting Reese into foul trouble is a goal for Indiana. Reese fouled out in the January game, and averages three personal fouls per game.
“What we’ve seen with Angel is she’s susceptible to fouling, and I think that’s where it starts,” Moren said. “We have to be more intentional about going inside early.”
As a team, Maryland averages 79.5 points per game while holding opponents to 67.3 points. Indiana averages 73 points per game and holds opponents to 62 points. Five players on each team all average double figures.
Moren said Indiana’s goal, as it has been all season, is to hold Maryland to under 60 points per game. She said the team is also focused on being able to produce offensively in all aspects, which is something they have struggled with in recent games.
“When you face a team like the Iowas and the Marylands, who want to outscore you, not necessarily out-defend you, you’ve got to be able to put points on the board,” Moren said.
Indiana will look to get out of its two-game losing skid and close out the regular season with a win over Maryland, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. Indiana has had one of the hardest stretches of play in the Big Ten, and despite the three-day break in between games, it still requires a lot of resilience to travel to a team that averages almost 5,000 fans at every home game.
“We’ve been dealt some pretty unfair cards here, going down the stretch,” Moren said. “And I think our kids have been resilient, they’ve not batted an eye as far as what we’ve asked them to do. I don’t think anybody in the country has had to do what we’ve had to do here in the last two weeks.”