No. 12 Indiana women’s basketball led from wire-to-wire in its 79-67 win over the No. 11-ranked University of Tennessee, but victory wasn’t assured until the final buzzer on Monday night. With the Lady Volunteers applying pressure and chipping away at the Hoosiers’ lead, Indiana’s experience proved crucial.
Indiana led by 16 points early in the third quarter, but Tennessee cut its deficit to four in the fourth quarter behind an electric environment that rattled the Hoosiers. On the brink of giving away the game, the Hoosiers’ experienced veterans took over to help pull away with a monumental victory. The win improved their record to 3-0.
Indiana’s two most experienced players – graduate guard Grace Berger and senior forward Mackenzie Holmes – were the leaders of the charge. The duo combined for 12 of Indiana’s 22 fourth-quarter scoring total and helped the Hoosiers keep composure in the ruckus atmosphere.
Berger scored four points in the final frame and 13 total, but it was her ball handling and leadership that proved pivotal in crunch time. Head coach Teri Moren acknowledged how meaningful Berger is to the team’s success.
“Grace Berger is our leader and we’re going to play off her toughness,” Moren said. “Grace did a great job of making sure we were all good.”
While Berger played the role of floor general, Holmes provided the scoring outburst. Holmes led the Hoosiers with 16 points, doing half of her damage in the fourth quarter by using her post moves to perfection against the taller Tennessee defenders.
“I knew I was going to have to work that much harder,” Holmes said. “We just took advantage of the matchups. My teammates were finding me, and I got some good looks.”
Holmes and Berger both finished with double-doubles, grabbing 10 rebounds each along with their scoring outputs. In a game where Moren said rebounding was the key, Indiana’s star pair attacked the boards to help the Hoosiers win the rebounding battle 35-33.
In addition to Holmes and Berger, Indiana’s veteran core stepped up to provide a balanced attack. Five Hoosier players scored in double digits. Senior guard Sara Scalia tied Holmes with a team-high 16 points, junior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil added 15 and junior guard Sydney Parrish put up 13 off the bench.
Parrish was the most impactful player in the first half, scoring 10 of her 13 in that span and hustling for three offensive rebounds and two steals. Moren has continued to praise Parrish for her role and effectiveness as Indiana’s sixth woman.
“Syd came in off the bench and really gave us a great shot in the arm with her activity and hustle,” Moren said.
Scalia had strong performances in the second and fourth quarters while Moore-McNeil had a big third quarter, including a clutch 3-pointer to halt Tennessee’s surge of momentum, helping the Hoosiers retain their lead.
“I feel like we’ve all been very experienced,” Moore-McNeil said. “Even on their runs we knew how to hold our composure and hit them back.”
Moren expressed her pride in the team for earning the top-15 win this early in the season. However, she admitted her previously held doubts as to how the Hoosiers would blend after adding seven new players this offseason.
“I was wondering how tough of a group we have because we have so many new faces,” Moren said.
Moren referred to the players Indiana lost from last season – Ali Patberg, Aleksa Gulbe and Nicole Cardano-Hilary – and how difficult replacing their toughness would be.
Nonetheless, Moren recognized the experience the Hoosiers still have up and down the roster and how reliable it was as the game tightened.
“These are some veterans,” Moren said. “We have a group that understands the game. They played with great discipline.”
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