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Saturday, Feb. 24
The Indiana Daily Student

sports women's basketball

“We had to grind it out”: No. 17 Indiana women's basketball defeats Maine in slugfest

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Ahead of No. 17 Indiana women’s basketball’s midweek matchup with the University of Maine on Thursday, the focus was on graduate student forward Mackenzie Holmes returning to her home state.  

“We knew coming into this game that this is a big game for them,” Holmes said postgame. “We knew they’d be fired up to play and we knew they were a good team.” 

Although the Black Bears entered the contest with a 4-3 record compared to the Hoosiers’ 5-1, it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Indiana seized control of Maine. 

Analyzing the two squads on paper ahead of the game, the Hoosiers looked to be the substantially better team. With Maine averaging 54.7 points per game and shooting 37.4% from the field this season compared to Indiana’s 82 points per contest holding a 49.9% field goal percentage, it was almost an expectation the Hoosiers would run through the Black Bears. 

But fast forward to Thursday and the contest turned into a slugfest. 

“You look at the stat sheet, and if you weren’t at the game, you wouldn’t have felt what kind of a slugfest it was — back and forth, slow, not high-paced game,” Indiana head coach Teri Moren said postgame. “But then you look at the stat sheets and they look pretty, except for the first half, take that away and the fact that we gave one kid 34 points, you might guess that we played quite well.” 

While the Hoosiers emerged with an eight-point victory, it was far from pretty. Both teams got off to a slow start with Holmes scoring the first basket of the game three minutes and 37 seconds into the opening quarter. 

Although Maine graduate student guard Anne Simon closed out the first quarter with a 2-point bucket to take a 16-14 lead, both teams struggled mightily — shooting a combined nine-of-29 from the field.  

Indiana is familiar with slow starts, leading just 12-9 after the opening quarter against the University of Tennessee on Nov. 23. In each of their last two contests against Tennessee and Princeton University on Nov. 25, the Hoosiers outscored their opponents 21-12 and 25-13 in the second quarter. But on a night Cross Insurance Arena sold out in anticipation of Holmes’ return, Indiana couldn’t replicate its prior dominating second-quarter performances. 

On Thursday, it was the Black Bears that turned in a rather impressive second quarter, outscoring the Hoosiers 21-15. After Simon scored 14 of Maine’s 16 points in the first quarter, she continued to cause fits for Indiana’s defense, notching 11 points in the second. 

Not only were the Hoosiers unable to contain Simon’s scoring outburst in the opening half, but they also allowed the Black Bears to knife through their defense with numerous back cuts. 

“We were really on them emphasizing the defensive side of the ball,” Moren said. “We just felt like everything that we had prepped for, the back cuts, [Simon] was feeling it. We had to figure out who could guard her in the first half. I didn’t feel like any of our guards did a good enough job.” 

The second half marked a significant improvement in Indiana’s defense. After finding themselves down 37-29 at halftime, the Hoosiers contained Simon to 9 points in the second half. With Simon notching just 5 points in the third quarter, Indiana outscored Maine 16-11 to close the gap to 48-45 with one quarter remaining. 

With the game knotted at 54 midway through the final quarter, senior guards Sydney Parrish and Chloe Moore-McNeil took command. Parrish notched an and-one with just under five minutes remaining before Moore-McNeil nailed a shot from just outside the paint alongside a 3-pointer, capping off a crucial 10-0 run that propelled the Hoosiers to a 67-59 victory. 

“It’s one of those games where we had to grind it out,” Moren said. “You’ll have those games, that’s what the sport is — especially our sport. You have nights where maybe some of your shots aren’t falling. Teams make different runs. I thought we were really good, we were much better I should say, in the second half.” 

Although the Hoosiers struggled Thursday, the come-from-behind win could serve as valuable experience come NCAA Tournament time. 

“Maine is a very good team, they’re very well coached and they’re going to win a lot of games,” Moren said. “We knew that they were going to be a challenge, but that’s why we set the schedule up. It was twofold — one to bring [Holmes] back here, but it was a road game. It was going to be a tough, challenging road game and that’s why we did it.” 

Indiana now sets its sights on a matchup with Stetson University at 2 p.m. Sunday in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall with the game streaming on Big Ten+. The contest will likely provide the Hoosiers with their final tune-up against a 2-6 Hatters squad before beginning conference play against Rutgers on Dec. 9.  

Follow reporters Dalton James (@DaltonMJames) and Quinn Richards (@Quinn_richa), columnist Ryan Canfield (@_ryancanfield) and photographer Olivia Bianco (@theoliviabianco) for updates throughout the Indiana women’s basketball season. 

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