No. 2 Indiana women’s basketball and its star senior forward Mackenzie Holmes have shared a common characteristic all season: dominating the competition night in and night out. Yet another stellar performance from Holmes — 27 points, five rebounds and five blocks — helped Indiana topple No. 12 Michigan 68-52 on Thursday night and improve its record to 25-1.
“I hope it looks like we’re having fun out there, because I definitely am,” Holmes said after the game.
Offensively, Holmes poured in another high scoring and highly efficient night. She started early, scoring the Hoosiers’ first basket of the night on a layup. Then, she opened the lane and set a solid screen to allow junior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil to coast for a layup.
A few possessions later, Moore-McNeil returned the favor to her star teammate, dumping a pass to a then-open Holmes, who fought through contact to convert an and-1. The period had teetered back-and-forth, but Holmes took over late to push Indiana out in front. She scored 9 of the last 12 points for the Hoosiers, finishing with 13 in the frame and a 5-point lead.
Holmes’ scoring slowed down in the second quarter, but her presence allowed her teammates to spread the wealth. She often drew multiple defenders, even without the ball in her hands. Graduate guard Grace Berger took advantage, attacking the paint while several Wolverine defenders had peeled their attention to Holmes, resulting in an easy layup.
“She’s been great handling traps and double teams coming at her. She’s got a good balance, which makes her great,” Moore-McNeil said. “She can obviously score the ball, but she can dish it out too and recognize where help is coming and when.”
Holmes’ efficiency dropped in the second half — at least by her standards — but her paint presence had already been established. She immediately grabbed her own miss and put it back up to start the quarter and later continued to power through multiple defenders to score. Holmes and her teammates took advantage of fast-break opportunities when possible, establishing herself down low before the double teams could catch up.
Holmes’ 27 points did not come easy, but she still managed to score them in an efficient manner. She shot 11-for-22, remarkably her season-low field goal percentage, and made 5-of-6 free throws. Even without the ball, she opened up several lanes for her teammates to score at ease in the paint.
On the defensive side, Holmes swatted everything in the paint from the get-go. She sent back three Michigan shots in the last two minutes and six seconds of the first frame, preventing the Wolverines from beating her inside to protect the Hoosiers’ lead.
In the second period, she sent back another Michigan shot, stuffing senior guard Maddie Nolan’s jumper attempt. Even when she didn’t get a piece of the ball, Holmes lurked in the paint, her presence alone dissuading Michigan from entering what she had established as her territory.
Indiana had a 42-28 halftime lead, and Holmes had her way inside. The Hoosiers outscored the Wolverines 24-16 in the paint, and the star senior had already rejected four shots and grabbed four boards to go along with her 16 points.
In the second half, Michigan hardly dared to enter Holmes’ house. When graduate forward Emily Kiser chose to do so, Holmes promptly denied her, Holmes’ fifth block of the game. The rejection marked block number 198 in her career, moving her up to second all-time in program history.
[Related: Mackenzie Holmes moves into second on Indiana women’s basketball all-time blocks list]
“Something that I’ve really tried to get better at is my defense. It’s not something that comes natural for me,” Holmes said. “If I can be a rim protector for the team and help them in that aspect, then that’s something that I really want to do.”
Indiana limped towards victory in the fourth quarter, not scoring for over six minutes and allowing easy baskets, but the result had been decided. Michigan cut the deficit to 13, but Holmes responded with 5 straight points and a steal to shut the door. She checked out for the final time at the 2:18 mark and received a standing ovation — Holmes had dominated again in what has become both ordinary and expected.
Holmes continues to make a push toward the National Player of the Year conversation, and her consistent and reliable performances, in addition to a Hoosier squad that keeps on winning, is trending her upward. The next opponent Holmes looks to bully is rival Purdue, who comes to Bloomington on Sunday to battle for the Barn Burner Trophy.