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Tuesday, April 23
The Indiana Daily Student

sports women's basketball

No. 5 Indiana women’s basketball outlasts Illinois’ pesky upset efforts 65-61

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No. 5 Indiana women’s basketball clawed its way to a 65-61 win over Illinois on Sunday afternoon. The Hoosiers were pushed to the final buzzer by the Illini, but Indiana’s experience and composure were able to come through down the stretch.

“Hats off to Illinois, that was by far the best defensive team we’ve faced,” Indiana head coach Teri Moren said. “I’m really proud of our group. We had to fight, claw and scratch to get to the end of the game and get a victory.” 

The Hoosiers picked up right where they left off from their 87-63 blowout win over No. 6 University of North Carolina Thursday night. Indiana outscored Illinois 19-5 in the first seven minutes of the first quarter, including a pair of triples from junior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil.

Illinois dominated the rest of the first half. The Fighting Illini outscored the Hoosiers 27-15 in the final 13 minutes of the second half, closing Indiana’s halftime lead to two points — its smallest halftime margin of the season.

The third quarter was a defensive slugfest, with both teams combining to score 23 points. Illinois outscored Indiana 12-11 to cut the Hoosier lead to one point. Indiana’s second and third quarter scoring outputs of 13 and 11 points are its two lowest scoring quarters of the season.

The final 10 minutes were any basketball lover’s dream — a back-and-forth contest going down to the wire. The teams traded baskets continuously, with Illinois taking the lead and Indiana coming back to tie it on five different occasions.

With the game on the line, star senior forward Mackenzie Holmes stepped up most for the Hoosiers. Holmes was battling on both sides of the ball, earning a key steal and block defensively and getting offensive rebounds and crucial buckets on the offensive end.

Trailing 61-60 with 40 seconds remaining, Holmes came through. Utilizing her signature spin move in the post, she used her left hand to get the shot up around her defender, banking it in off the glass.

Protecting Indiana’s new lead, Holmes stepped up again. Illinois’ red-hot junior guard Makira Cook drove to the basket, but Holmes was there to alter the shot. After the Hoosiers made one of two free throws, Holmes again contested a Cook jump shot to prevent overtime and secure Indiana’s ninth win of the season.

“It was a sigh of relief,” Holmes said. “We knew they were gonna go to (Cook), so I tried to stay consistent, stay down and get a hand in her face and hope for the best.”

Cook scored 33 points for the Fighting Illini, including 20 in the second half. The transfer guard scored more than half of Illinois’ points, carrying the offense as far as she could.

“(Cook) was cooking, no pun intended,” Moren said. “You play players like that, that you can’t find an answer to them. You hope you can keep the rest of them quiet and we did a decent job of that.”

Holmes finished with 23 points and six rebounds to finish as Indiana’s leading scorer, while contributing defensively with four blocks and three steals. As the go-to option in the clutch, she finished the fourth quarter with eight points, four rebounds, a steal and a block.

Junior guard Sydney Parrish made her presence known all over the court. She scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, notching her second double-double of the season, while getting four steals and two blocks.

The hard-fought win improves Indiana’s record to 9-0 and gives the Hoosiers a 1-0 start in Big Ten play. Next up, Indiana will travel to University Park, Pennsylvania, on Thursday to continue conference play against Penn State. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. and will be available on BTN+.


Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Sebree (@mattsebree) and columnist Matt Press (@MattPress23) for updates throughout the Indiana women’s basketball season. 
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