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Wednesday, June 19
The Indiana Daily Student

sports women's basketball

COLUMN: The anatomy of a No. 2 Indiana women’s basketball blowout — Michigan edition

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It really shouldn’t be this easy. No. 2 Indiana women’s basketball recorded its ninth ranked win of the season Thursday night — a dominating 68-52 victory over No. 12 Michigan — in a fashion that has essentially become a cliché for the Hoosiers.  

Consistently rattling off double-digit wins over formidable Big Ten foes isn’t really the norm. Before diving into the inner workings of Indiana’s winning methods, I would advise not to take any bit of this season for granted.  

Under the tutelage of head coach Teri Moren, who should be the runaway Naismith Coach of The Year I might add, Indiana has steadily grown into an exciting, uber-talented machine. As they’ve soared to the top of the national ranks, the loftiest of goals established at the outset of the season have begun to appear more and more realistic.  

A Big Ten regular season title and all but ensured No. 1 seed for the conference tournament are well within arm’s length — only the in-state rival Purdue Boilermakers stand in their way. Purely in a vacuum, the Hoosiers are on track for their best season in program history.  

So how is Indiana able to pull off such assertive wins against some of the country’s top squads? A simple recipe.  

Step 1: An absurd first half run 

On Thursday night against the Wolverines, the Hoosiers led for 36 minutes. After trading buckets for most of the first frame, Indiana could have conceivably felt a little nervy. Down 9-8, freshman guard Yarden Garzon immediately responded to a Michigan free throw with a rising hook shot.  

Then, the blows just kept coming. The Hoosiers began to suffocate the Wolverines each possession and scamper the other way for a score. The 1-point deficit evaporated and ballooned to a 10-point lead for Indiana in a matter of just over a minute.  

That’s all it takes. Sixty seconds and the Hoosiers had taken the game into their hands and resurrected a vibrant Assembly Hall crowd. Against No. 13 Ohio State on Monday night, Indiana followed a nearly identical formula, only to a much larger proportion.  

Starting fast and utterly crushing the hearts of opponents is the initial, and most crucial, component for Moren’s group. They got that done in spades.  

Step 2: Mackenzie Holmes 

This one’s pretty simple. Senior forward Mackenzie Holmes, who jumped into second in program history in blocks after notching five swats, is the engine that surges the Hoosiers forward. Her 27 points against Michigan paved the path for the win and embodied the National Player of the Year type campaign she’s in the midst of.

In just about every win, a crafty Holmes bucket or rejection sparks a domino effect that snowballs into insurmountable leads. Thursday night was no different. Despite her efficiency being slightly below her usual, ridiculous standard, Holmes’ impact on the rest of the team was evident.  

[Related: COLUMN: Mackenzie Holmes may not be NPOY, but at least give her consideration

She demands enough attention to create generous looks for her teammates, and more often than not, if she doesn’t convert a circus shot of her own, she’ll find them. Her mentality plays a huge role in her sustained success.  

After the game, Moren noted that Holmes was upset with her fourth quarter performance in which she admittedly struggled to convert a handful of opportunities. To express unsatisfaction in a 16-point victory over the No. 12 Wolverines is the kind of trait that breeds champions.  

Ask Michigan head coach Kim Barnes Arico and you’ll hear the same thing. “I’ve seen some great teams all season long, but I think they can win a championship,” Barnes Arico said.  

Step 3: Let opponents creep back, then realize there’s still time left

With a 61-37 lead heading into the fourth quarter, Indiana’s win was essentially sealed. An important piece of the Hoosiers’ winning puzzle, however, is to allow teams to garner the most granular amount of hope late in the game.  

Indiana failed to score a point over five minutes into the frame, and the Wolverines began to creep ever so slightly back into the mix. Once Holmes broke the drought, the floodgates burst open, and the Hoosiers regained control.  

Thanks to phenomenal defense from Holmes, graduate guard Grace Berger and junior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil, to name a few, Indiana weathered the storm enough to still pull out a more than convincing victory.  

Ideally the Hoosiers could skip this step and simply steamroll through the final frame, as well, but if it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it. When you’re having this kind of unprecedented success, it’s a safe bet to keep doing exactly what you’re doing. 

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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