Having lost three of its starters from last season, Indiana women’s basketball was poised to have a new identity. However, the Hoosiers brought back two of their stars – graduate guard Grace Berger and junior forward Mackenzie Holmes – who were reliable as ever in Indiana’s 86-43 victory over Kentucky Wesleyan College.
The duo – who were both named to the Naismith Trophy Women’s Watch earlier this afternoon – showed their chemistry on the court hasn’t missed a beat. Holmes led all scorers with 22 points while Berger contributed 16, and several of those points came off assists from each other – including a savvy behind-the-back pass from Berger for an easy Holmes layup.
“Anytime I get a chance to step on the floor with a player like Grace Berger it’s an honor and a blessing,” Holmes said. “I’m so lucky to play alongside her for another year.”
While the Hoosier veterans dominated, several newcomers made their presence felt as well. Senior guard Sara Scalia put up 14 points and showed off her range – connecting from deep three times. Freshman forward Lilly Meister had a fabulous collegiate debut – scoring 12 points in 10 minutes while shooting perfect from the floor.
“I’ve got to give all the credit to the guards. They got me wide open to crash on the driver and found a way to get me the ball,” Meister said. “But yeah, it felt good. A really cool atmosphere to play in.”
Indiana excelled defensively – a staple for head coach Teri Moren-led teams. The Hoosiers forced 27 turnovers and held the Panthers to shooting 36.7% from the field.
“We’ve always hung our hat on the defensive side of the ball,” Moren said. “If you’re going to come to Indiana, you’re going to be expected to guard and defend.”
Indiana’s stifling defense led to several opportunities in the fast break. The Hoosiers scored 22 points in transition and converted 38 points off Kentucky Wesleyan’s turnovers – including three uncontested layups in a row by Holmes late in the third quarter.
Indiana’s bench contributed 29 points in the contest – a sign of improvement compared to the program’s recent struggles with depth. Junior guard Sydney Parrish stuffed the stat sheet with 6 points, three steals and two rebounds, along with two assists and blocks. In addition to Parrish, Meister and freshman guard Lexus Bargesser provided impactful minutes off the bench.
“I think we are deeper,” Moren said. “I think we have kids that will come off our bench that could be starters, but we need them to serve a different role.”
The Hoosiers bruised the Panthers, scoring 54 points in the paint and shooting an efficient 26-29 on layups. On the perimeter, the Hoosiers attempted 19 3-pointers – five above their average from last year – and connected on five of them.
Following its dominant outing, Indiana will open its regular season 7 p.m. Tuesday night hosting the University of Vermont in Bloomington.
“It was a nice first way to start with this new group of Hoosiers,” Moren said. “I think the more we play together, real games, our best basketball is still ahead of us.”