No. 6 Indiana women’s basketball won 83-72 to complete its season sweep over No. 21 Illinois in Urbana-Champaign Wednesday night. While the Hoosiers had their defense to thank in the first matchup, they relied on their offense on the road.
Indiana started its offensive agenda early, shooting its quota of 50% from the field in the first period. However, Illinois made a quick 7-point scoring run to gain a 9-point advantage before the Hoosiers cut it to three at the end of the quarter. All five starters scored in the frame for Indiana, and it seemed clear that a great offensive night would be necessary to win.
The Hoosiers’ offense continued to play at a high level through the next quarter, and their defense stepped up to make a run and take the lead. Graduate guard Grace Berger had seven points and four rebounds in the quarter, her best 10-minute period since making her return from injury against Northwestern. Indiana scored 19 points on 55.6% shooting and made 9-of-12 free throws to boost the Hoosiers into a halftime lead.
“Illinois got off to a great start and we responded in the right kind of way,” head coach Teri Moren said after Wednesday’s win. “We didn’t panic. We didn’t take bad shots. We just kept chipping away.”
A large part of Indiana’s early success was its team basketball. The Hoosiers had seven assists on 12 made field goals, finding the open player and passing up good looks for great ones. Selfless plays like Berger’s fast-break no-look dime to senior forward Mackenzie Holmes is what allowed Indiana to shoot an efficient 52.2% in the first half.
Holmes, who had 11 points and six rebounds in the first half, erupted in the third. She scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting, bullying her defenders in the post. When the Illini started to double team her, it provided open looks, including back-to-back triples from freshman guard Yarden Garzon.
“When it comes to the double team coming, we’ve done a lot of good job of working on it in practice and giving me reps,” Holmes said. “I know that my teammates and coaches trust that I’ll make the right decision.”
In total, Indiana scored 30 points in the third frame, just the second time it’s done so this season and the second consecutive game. It made 13-of-19 shots, 68.4%, and did so with eight assists on the makes to expand its lead to 16 points.
Illinois tightened up defensively in the fourth period, but the damage had already been dealt. Clutch and-1 baskets by Holmes and junior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil halted an Illini run, and a few more Moore-McNeil free throws sealed the game.
The Hoosiers finished the game with 83 points — their second-most in Big Ten play — on 55.6% shooting from the field — also their second-best in a conference game this season. Indiana also shot above its season average from three — a 38.5% effort — and made 18-of-24 from the charity stripe.
Holmes led the way as she has all season, scoring 30 points, two shy of her career high, and grabbing 10 rebounds for her eighth double-double of the season. As Indiana’s go-to scoring threat, Holmes knows she’s always available.
“I think my teammates always do a great job looking for me,” Holmes said. “Whether I’m getting hot or I miss a few shots, they’re always looking for me.”
Four of Indiana’s starting five scored in double figures, with junior guard Sydney Parrish being the exception with 8 points. While a top-heavy effort, as Indiana produced just 2 bench points, the Hoosiers proved that more than one player can carry the load. Additionally, they proved how dangerous their offense can be when all cylinders are clicking.
“We have so many players on this team who can score for us, there’s a great balance,” Moren said. “That’s a strong, smart, veteran, experienced team.”
Berger scored 18 points, Garzon scored 13, including three of Indiana’s five 3-pointers, and Moore-McNeil added 12 along with a team-high six assists. The Hoosiers also took care of the ball, with 10 giveaways compared to 16 assists.
Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Sebree (@mattsebree) and columnist Matt Press (@MattPress23) for updates throughout the Indiana women’s basketball season.