WEST LAFAYETTE — No. 4 Indiana women’s basketball senior guard Sara Scalia drained a 3-pointer in front of the Hoosiers’ bench. The next possession, junior guard Sydney Parrish splashed a triple from the wing.
With around five minutes left in Sunday’s game against Purdue, fans rose to their feet and rained down applause and chants of “Hoo-Hoo-Hoo, Hoosiers!” You hardly would’ve known the contest took place at the Boilermakers’ Mackey Arena.
Amid the sellout Purdue crowd, Hoosier fans sucked the life out of a gym that was beaming with black and gold clad fans just an hour prior. It was reflective of Indiana’s play. The Hoosiers’ absurd 19-2 third quarter run remedied a turbulent first half and guided them to a 69-46 win, the team’s tenth consecutive victory.
In the waning minutes of the game, Purdue fans began to slowly stream toward the exits. The pockets of crimson only grew more energetic, seemingly relishing in the despair of their archrival. It capped off a weekend that was as euphoric as it gets in the Hoosier state: a pair of wins over the Boilermakers.
Parrish knows the weight of the rivalry. A former Indiana Miss Basketball, after transferring from the University of Oregon this past offseason, Sunday marked the first time she engaged in the battle as a player.
“It was a little more personal this year because I am the only Indiana kid on this team,” Parrish said after the game. “I had to step up and be that person on our team to show who the best team in Indiana is.”
Despite a middling record in the conference, Purdue entered Sunday’s game coming off unexpected upset wins over Illinois and No. 10 Ohio State. It seemed as if something was brewing in West Lafayette. Students braved through the cold to camp out for the game and ultimately created an atmosphere that felt sure to bother the visitors.
For a little while, it appeared to. Senior forward Mackenzie Holmes was suffocated by double teams and had just 2 points in the entire first half. Generally speaking, the Hoosiers will go as far as Holmes will take them. When she can’t find room to operate and her sidekicks aren’t knocking down shots, the offense stalls.
It’s a shocking concept. I know. But it’s a testament to the fact that Purdue executed its game plan to near perfection for two quarters. Holmes wasn’t going to be the one to take down the Boilermakers. If it meant wide open shots for freshman guard Yarden Garzon and junior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil, so be it.
A mammoth, demoralizing offensive run — something that has been a staple of this season’s Hoosiers — was desperately needed. They wouldn’t get by just trading buckets. They needed to be cutthroat and squash any hope Purdue had at a third consecutive surprise win.
There was no fairytale ending for the Boilermakers, though. With a mature team like Indiana comes a keen ability to adapt. After being stifled for 20 minutes, Holmes completely took over the second half. Mixed in with her dominant post backdowns was a little something extra — a midrange jumper and a conversion from beyond the arc, just her second 3-point make of the season.
“It’s Mack just making decisions, the right decisions,” head coach Teri Moren said. “In the past she would’ve tried to push it a little too much, but I thought she was terrific.”
We saw it in the third quarter against then No. 2 Ohio State. When the Hoosiers step onto the floor for the second half, everything that happened previously is irrelevant. It’s not all just scoring points though. While 15 points from Parrish, 13 from junior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil and 15 from Holmes powered the offensive output, it was pesky play on the other end that put away the Boilermakers for good.
Moore-McNeil had nine rebounds and a whopping five steals, and she was constantly hounding guards on the perimeter. Holmes and Garzon notched a pair of blocks apiece, but it was largely team-oriented efforts that shut down a Purdue team which has the potential to seriously heat up on offense.
The Hoosiers forced 18 turnovers and turned them into 18 points. While the defense shined inside and out virtually all game, it was especially important in the midst of the third-quarter offensive outburst.
Moren reiterated that the team isn’t looking ahead. It’s focus over the last few days was Purdue and Purdue only. Tomorrow starts the preparation for Indiana’s Thursday matchup with No. 6 Iowa, likely the final roadblock standing in the way of the Hoosiers’ gaining Big Ten supremacy.
For now, though, they can celebrate Sunday’s win — one that, coming against a particular foe, means a whole lot more.