Indiana Daily Student

Indiana women’s basketball overcomes rebounding struggles to beat Illinois in Big Ten opener

<p>Freshman guard Yarzden Garzon pushes a University of Illinois player out of the way Dec. 4, 2022, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Indiana continues its winning streak after defeating Illinois 65-61.</p>

Freshman guard Yarzden Garzon pushes a University of Illinois player out of the way Dec. 4, 2022, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Indiana continues its winning streak after defeating Illinois 65-61.

Entering Sunday’s matinee matchup against Illinois in Bloomington, Indiana women’s basketball had routinely won the rebounding battle by wide margins this season, grabbing nearly six more rebounds than opponents on average through eight games. However, in its Big Ten season opener, the Hoosiers struggled mightily on the boards, allowing the Illini to outrebound them by 10 in the first half and by seven in the game. 

Although Indiana pulled off the 65-61 victory to move to 1-0 in conference and 9-0 overall, it didn’t come easy as Illinois continued getting extra possessions throughout the game to keep the Hoosiers on their heels. 

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

Before the game, graduate student forward Alyssa Geary was in a walking boot after injuring her ankle in practice Saturday. Geary is Indiana’s tallest rotation player at 6’4” and is usually the first forward off the bench for the team. 

After the game, head coach Teri Moren said Geary is day-to-day and will be back. 

In Geary’s absence, freshman forward Lilly Meister was the only forward to get minutes off the bench on Sunday, though she only recorded one rebound and commit two turnovers and two fouls in five minutes. 

Starting senior forward Mackenzie Holmes also uncharacteristically struggled rebounding the ball, particularly in the first half. Holmes entered the game as the team’s leading rebounder with more than seven per game. But in the first half against Illinois, she only managed two. 

Holmes’ first half struggles on the glass were representative of Indiana’s issues as a team. After 20 minutes of play, Illinois had a 22-12 rebounding advantage including a 7-0 edge on offensive rebounds. 

Junior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil said the team knew at halftime they had to improve on the boards in order to win the game. 

“We have enough experienced players to huddle in and talk amongst ourselves in the locker room before the coaches come in, telling each other what we need to focus on and the battles that we're losing,” Moore-McNeil said. 

Moren said the Illini did a good job of forcing Indiana to continue rotating of defense which drew Hoosier players away from the paint for rebounds. 

“In the first half I thought (Illinois junior forward Kendall) Bostic did a great job of just being around the basket,” Moren said. “And again, number three, (Illinois junior guard Makira) Cook puts pressure on you because she requires another person to rotate over."

Bostic and Cook finished as the game’s leading rebounder and scorer with 14 boards and 33 points, respectively. 

Moren said once she and the coaches come into the locker room for halftime, they also pointed out the need to improve at boxing out and crashing the glass. 

“We had a discussion at halftime, I just pointed out that they were plus-(10) on the boards at that point. We needed our guards. We needed Scalia to get in there and Yarden to get in there,” Moren said. “(Junior guard Sydney Parrish) really did a good job of getting in there, especially late as the game progressed.” 

Parrish was Indiana’s leading rebounder, recording a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds — seven of which came in the second half. Holmes also recovered from her first half struggles to grab four boards in the fourth quarter alone to help Indiana close out the win. 

Though a minus-seven rebounding deficit usually results in a loss, the Hoosiers were able to pull out the win and survive, but they will need to perform better on the glass moving forward if they want to achieve their goal of a Big Ten championship.

“You just have to kind of get grimy and you hope that your grit shows up and you make just enough plays to win the game,” Moren said.

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

Like what you're reading?

Get more award-winning content delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Recap.

Signup today!
Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.

Powered by Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2023 Indiana Daily Student