Facing foul trouble with its stars and a late push in a rowdy road environment, No. 6 Indiana women’s basketball looked like it might crack. However, the Hoosiers’ experience and composure revealed itself to lead them down the stretch. Indiana escaped Ann Arbor with a 92-83 win over No. 13 Michigan, improving to 18-1 to set the program’s record for its best start to a season.
“We’re obviously very excited. Any time you can win on the road at a place like Michigan, it’s a good night,” head coach Teri Moren said after Monday’s game. “I thought our kids followed the game plan; they didn’t panic.”
The Hoosiers started off hot. Senior forward Mackenzie Holmes found a groove early around the basket and Indiana was finding open cutters and distributing the ball, like with graduate guard Grace Berger running the fast break to find an open junior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil for an easy layup.
Michigan shot well early, making seven of its 14 shots in the first quarter, but were held to zero 3-point attempts in the period. Indiana, on the other hand, made 57.9% of its shots in the frame, three of which coming from deep. A 26-16 first quarter Hoosiers lead was the result.
Moore-McNeil found Holmes to start the second period and gain a 12-point lead, but the Wolverines wouldn’t go down easily. After making a bucket and two free throws, Michigan drilled back-to-back threes — its first two of the game — to cut the deficit to four.
Senior guard Sara Scalia scored seven points in the remainder of the quarter and after a few back-and-forth runs, the Hoosiers were able to keep a 10-point advantage heading into the half, leading 48-38.
Trouble arose out of halftime, as first Holmes and later Berger picked up their third foul each. Indiana struggled to stay in front of the Wolverines, who scored 10 of their first 14 points of the quarter from the charity stripe.
However, Indiana continued to light it up, making 7-of-11 from the field including 3-of-4 from three in the third frame. The Hoosiers built their lead as high as 17 points, but ultimately entered the fourth quarter with a 12-point lead.
Foul trouble continued into the fourth, most notably from Holmes who picked up her fourth foul just 1:28 into the period. This sent her to the bench, and the Wolverines capitalized by cutting their deficit to single digits for the first time since the 2:01 mark of the second quarter.
Fifth-year guard Leigha Brown willed Michigan to a close contest, and a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Leila Phelia at the 4:48 mark had the Hoosiers’ lead down to six points. Indiana was reeling, Holmes was still on the bench and the Wolverines had all the momentum but Berger took control of a situation she knew all too well.
The star graduate guard hit her clutch turnaround jumper, then spun baseline for a layup following a defensive stop to push Indiana’s lead back to 10 points. The Hoosiers’ veteran has been relied on countless times in crunch time, and like she often has before, she delivered.
“I talked about how special she is. In those moments, that’s when she wants the ball in her hands,” Moren said of Berger. “She wanted the ball and we put it in her hands. We trust her, without question, to go make the right plays for us.”
Berger’s buckets sparked a quick 7-1 run which sealed the outcome. The Hoosiers made six free throws down the stretch to clinch the 93-82 victory.
Michigan had been holding opponents to 60.4 points per game prior to Monday night, but an efficient shooting night led to Indiana’s offensive explosion. The Hoosiers shot 33-of-64 from the field — 51.6% — including 9-of-18 from 3-point range and 17-of-24 from the free-throw line.
Holmes posted her ninth double-double of the season with 25 points and 10 rebounds in just 29 minutes due to her foul trouble. In total, six Hoosiers scored double-digit points.
Indiana’s rebounding played a pivotal role. The Hoosiers grabbed 41 rebounds to the Wolverines’ 24, including 14 offensive rebounds for the victors. Freshman forward Lilly Meister snagged six rebounds in 11 minutes, replacing Holmes in the post as she sat out with foul trouble.
Indiana’s streak of facing ranked opponents will continue Thursday night. The Hoosiers face No. 2 Ohio State in Bloomington with an opportunity to move into first place in the Big Ten on the line.
Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Sebree (@mattsebree) and columnist Matt Press (@MattPress23) for updates throughout the Indiana women’s basketball season.