Indiana women’s basketball has accomplished more in the regular season than it ever has before — its highest AP Poll ranking at No. 2, most-ever wins and now, its first-ever outright Big Ten regular season title. The Hoosiers look to complete their campaign on Sunday against No. 6 Iowa in Iowa City.
Indiana clinched a share of the Big Ten title in its 83-60 win over Purdue on Sunday, but Iowa would have had the chance to compete for a share if it beat No. 7 Maryland on Tuesday. Instead, the Hawkeyes got waxed by the Terrapins, a 96-68 landslide victory which handed the outright title to the Hoosiers.
The conference championship race may be off the line, but there is still plenty the two squads will vie for. One such thing will be bragging rights, as Indiana and Iowa have procured a rivalry of sorts in recent years. As two top-tier programs in the Big Ten, games between them have additive importance for standings, including last year’s Big Ten Tournament championship game.
A battle between two Player of the Year candidates will also be a factor. Iowa junior guard Caitlyn Clark, arguably the favorite for both National and Big Ten Player of the Year, will be looking for a big performance to solidify spot at the top. After a lackluster performance of 18 points on 38% shooting and four assists with six turnovers at Maryland, Clark may need another elite game to ensure an award-winning season.
On the other hand, Indiana senior forward Mackenzie Holmes continues to barrel into the conversation. Averaging 22.6 points per game on 69.2% shooting — second in NCAA — and 7.4 rebounds, Holmes’ personal and team dominance may be enough to swoop in and steal both awards from Clark.
The first time these two teams met this season on Feb. 9, both stars had stellar performances. Holmes cruised to 24 points, six rebounds and four steals while holding her counterpart, Iowa fifth year forward Monika Czinano, to 6 points and four turnovers along with fouling out. Clark dazzled as usual, scoring 35 points and dishing out 10 assists, however she did so on 43% shooting and had a season-high 8 turnovers.
As for how the game went, the two teams proved an even match in the first half, tying each quarter to head into halftime at 39 apiece. Holmes and Clark each scored 12, but role players and second stars needed to step up to determine the outcome.
It was Indiana graduate guard Grace Berger who put the Hoosiers over the top. Berger scored 19 second-half points, along with another 12 from Holmes, and provided clutch buckets in key moments to help Indiana pull away with an 87-78 win.
In the bigger picture, NCAA Tournament seeding continues to remain a factor. In the NCAA’s recent top 16 in-season reveal, its second edition of the season, Indiana remained as the No. 2 overall seed. Iowa dropped two spots from the initial reveal, falling from No. 7 overall to No. 9, which would result in being a 3-seed rather than a 2-seed.
An Indiana win could lock up a 1-seed for the NCAA tournament. As for Iowa, it will need a win to prevent another seed-line bump. For the Big Ten Tournament, Indiana has clinched the 1-seed. Iowa currently stands as the 2-seed and will need to beat Indiana to keep that spot.
Tipoff in Iowa City is scheduled for 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.