No. 16 Indiana women’s basketball tipped off its first conference game of the season against Rutgers, leaving Piscataway, New Jersey, with a 66-56 victory. The Hoosiers improved to 8-1 and are currently on a seven-game winning streak.
It was also the 100th career Big Ten Conference win for head coach Teri Moren. So far through nine games, it’s been a year of milestones for the 54-year-old Seymour, Indiana, native, who celebrated her 400th career victory on Nov. 9.
The Hoosiers and Scarlet Knights engaged in a sloppy affair through the first 20 minutes with a score of 27-22 at the half as the teams combined for 18 turnovers. It should be worth noting that the Hoosiers’ bench totaled zero points. But as the game progressed, the Hoosiers found their rhythm to get a hard-fought win.
Here are three key factors to Indiana’s gritty road victory.
Defense continues to improve.
Seemingly the only major gray area for Indiana in November was defense. Coming off their far and away best defensive performance against Stetson University on Dec. 3, the Hoosiers held Rutgers to 22 field goals on 64 possessions, forcing 11 turnovers. The Hoosiers also held the Scarlet Knights to only eight second-chance points while dealing with two dominant bigs — six-foot-three junior guard Destiny Adams and senior forward Chyna Cornwell who were both held under their respective averages with just 11 and 6 points respectively.
The Hoosiers find offensive reinforcement when three ball aren’t going down.
The Hoosiers, a team that averaged just under 34% from three, shot three-for-16 Saturday from beyond the arc. When the threes were not going down, graduate forward Mackenzie Holmes came to the rescue. Holmes was 12-for-15 from the field with 24 points. Throughout her career, her post offense has been downright dominant. It was so dominant Saturday that the BTN broadcast team of Slone Martin and Meghan McKeown compared her post footwork to WNBA legend Lisa Leslie.
What works so well for Holmes is as soon as she catches the ball in the post, she always knows her next move, according to where she is. She diagnoses the defender, power dribbles and scores. The AP Pre-Season All-American is living up to the expectations. Saturday marked the 20th time Holmes scored 25 points or more in a game during her time at IU. Of those, 19 were victories.
The Hoosiers’ experience becomes a catalyst late.
Even with the loss of Grace Berger, entering the season the Hoosiers have one of the more experienced rosters in the country. They have a starting lineup that includes two graduate seniors, Holmes and guard Sara Scalia, two true seniors, guards Chloe Moore-McNeil and Sydney Parrish, and a sophomore, guard Yarden Garzon, who Teri Moren called “an unpaid pro.”
With all that experience, Indiana is going to find ways to win. When one thing isn’t going right, they just find a way. It will be interesting to see how the experience of this team helps itself with the upcoming Big Ten road games, with the next one against Nebraska on Jan. 7.
After the victory, Parrish announced she would be returning to Indiana next season to exercise her fifth year of eligibility. Parrish also commented on her defense which was much needed.
“I have to rely on my grittiness on defense, I’m not the fastest, most athletic player on that end of the floor,” Parrish said. “I’m just trying to rebound and do the little things that will help the team win.”
Even with some offensive in-efficiency with the 3-point shooting, Moren was still pleased with the win.
“Winning is hard,” Moren said. “Winning is really hard in this league, and anytime you can go on the road and win a Big Ten game, its a good feeling, so I am proud of our guys.”
Up next for Indiana is the University of Evansville in nine days at 7 p.m. Dec 18 on Big Ten+.
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.