In front of a loud and rowdy Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall crowd, No. 6 Indiana women’s basketball earned its third top-10 victory of the season, defeating No. 2 Ohio State University 78-65 on Thursday.
The 10,455 fans in attendance marked a regular season record, passing the previous mark set in Indiana’s last home game when 10,422 people saw the Hoosiers defeat Wisconsin 93-56 on Jan. 15.
[Related: Mackenzie Holmes’ big first half leads No. 6 Indiana women’s basketball past Wisconsin]
Before the game, head coach Teri Moren was honored for becoming the program’s all-time winningest coach with a basketball presented by university President Pam Whitten and Athletic Director Scott Dolson — eliciting chants of “TERI! TERI! TERI!” from the Hoosier faithful.
Once the game tipped off, the crowd immediately made its presence known. A 3-pointer from freshman guard Yarden Garzon got the Hoosiers on the board and brought the fans to their feet with one of the loudest pops of the season only a minute into the game.
However, despite the early triple, Ohio State responded and took an early 11-5 lead midway through the first quarter. From the jump, the Buckeyes were full-court pressing on defense and pushing the pace on offense, leading to early buckets in transition and open lanes for layups for the visitors.
After the game, Moren said she wants her team to run and push the pace as well, but that it's more important to recognize the flow of the game.
“It's just understanding what the pace is and what's required the next trip down the floor,” Moren said. “If you're going to shoot quick shots and you come up empty once or twice, then that third possession better be something where it's going to be slowed down. It's just understanding the flow of the game."
As the game progressed, Indiana tightened its defense and started knocking down shots on the other end — largely thanks to senior forward Mackenzie Holmes. Indiana’s star post scored 11 points in the first period alone on 5-6 shooting despite frequently drawing double teams when she got the ball.
The second quarter offered more of the same as the teams traded baskets and traded runs. In the battle between the Big Ten’s two highest-ranked teams, neither was able to gain a significant edge, and the game entered halftime with Ohio State up by four points.
Once the squads came out of the tunnel for the second half, though, the entire game changed. First Garzon knocked down a three. Then junior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil drew and converted an and-1, once again lifting the crowd from their seats. While Ohio State continued turning the ball over and struggled to even get a shot off — let alone make one — Indiana hit a trio of triples, the last two of which came from Garzon and sent Assembly Hall into a frenzy.
By the time the buzzer sounded at the end of the third quarter, the Hoosiers had scored 27, the Buckeyes had scored just 6, and every fan in attendance had spent nearly the whole 10-minute period on their feet creating the loudest home environment of the season.
“It's so special because not only are they showing up, but they're giving us energy, they're giving us momentum, they're like an extra teammate out on the court,” Holmes said of the crowd. “There's times when Ohio State couldn't even hear their play calls because the screams and the cheers were just so deafening, and you couldn't even hear whistles blown sometimes.”
Indiana entered the final frame leading by 17 points and although the second-ranked team in the country fought until the final seconds, the Hoosiers were able to put stops to runs and thwart any chance of a miracle comeback.
With the clock winding down, the Indiana players, staff and fans began the celebration — highlighted by chants of “MVP!” from the student section for Holmes when she checked out of the game with under a minute left. She finished as the game’s leading scorer with 26 points. Garzon added 20 points with four 3-pointers while graduate guard Grace Berger and junior guard Sydney Parrish scored 12 points each to help the team win.
With the win, Moren continued expanding her margin as the program’s winningest coach and the team improved to 19-1 overall and 9-1 in the Big Ten. The win also moved Indiana into a tie with Iowa for first place in the conference.
After three straight ranked matchups — all wins — Indiana will have an opportunity to square off against a team with a significantly less impressive resume in its next contest. Indiana welcomes Rutgers to Bloomington for a Big Ten matchup at 2 p.m. Sunday.