No. 6 Indiana women’s basketball defeated Auburn University 96-81 in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Friday. Graduate student guard Grace Berger left the game in the first minute and a half with a right knee injury.
The game was the first of Indiana’s two Las Vegas Invitational games. The venue of the Invitational is a ballroom of the Mirage casino resort, without any bleachers around the court.
Just 1:14 into the game, Berger was injured when an Auburn player landed on her leg, causing Berger to slam the floor in pain. Head coach Teri Moren and the training staff rushed out and Berger was helped back to the makeshift hotel locker room, putting minimal weight on her right leg.
After the game, Moren got choked up talking about her veteran leader’s injury.
“I knew she was hurt from the look on her face when I got to her,” Moren said. “And that’s hard.”
Later in the quarter, Berger returned to the bench and was walking around, but she was limping and had a large pack of ice taped to her knee. Moren said she isn’t yet sure of the extent or severity of the injury.
“What I do know about Grace is she's resilient, she's tough,” Moren said. “We'll get her back to Indiana as quickly as we can and evaluate her and then we'll go from there. She's our leader.”
Without Berger, the Hoosiers struggled to put away the Tigers. Entering halftime, the Hoosiers had built a 12-point lead but as the third quarter wound down, that lead dwindled to just five points. With just seconds left in the quarter, however, freshman guard Yarden Garzon knocked down a 3-pointer and the Tigers were unable to bring the deficit to two possessions throughout the rest of the game.
The 3-pointer was one of four Garzon made Friday on her way to a career-high 21 points. In addition to her scoring, she added six rebounds and six assists, as well as running the offense more than usual due to Berger’s absence.
“After Grace went down, we had to kind of rally, all of us,” Moren said. “When your best player, your leader, has to leave the floor the way she did — we were all a little bit out of sorts, but we found our groove.”
Junior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil also stepped into the primary ball handler roll with Berger out. Moore-McNeil matched Garzon’s game-high six assists and added 15 points.
The game’s leading scorer, however, was senior forward Mackenzie Holmes, who shot 10/10 from the field and 6/6 on free throws to finish with 26 points. Holmes also added 12 rebounds, two blocks and three steals for the Hoosiers.
Moren said the team wasn’t focused on getting Holmes the ball, it was just a result of looking for the open player and running the offense.
"I don’t know if it was a conscious effort as much as our kids are good basketball players, they’re smart basketball players, and they were just trying to take what the defense was giving us,” Moren said.
Indiana plays in the same carpeted ballroom of the Mirage tomorrow against the University of Memphis at 8:45 p.m.
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