No. 16 Indiana women’s basketball’s long-awaited Big Ten championship defense began Saturday afternoon with an away matchup against Rutgers. The Hoosiers battled through a turnover-heavy four quarters against the scrappy Scarlet Knights and ultimately found themselves 1-0 in conference play with a 66-56 win.
It’s notoriously difficult to play in hostile road venues in the Big Ten, and Jersey Mike's Arena in Piscataway, New Jersey, is no outlier. Rutgers held a 12-20 overall record last season, yet the Scarlet Knights held a winning record of 10-7 when playing at home.
“Any time you can go on the road and win in the Big Ten, it’s a good feeling,” Moren said postgame. “I'm proud of our group because winning on the road is hard.”
Oftentimes winning on the road requires composure under pressure, which tends to come from experience, a quality not lost on a veteran Hoosiers roster. Senior guards Chloe Moore-McNeil and Sydney Parrish and graduate student forward Mackenzie Holmes played a combined 10 seasons of Division I basketball heading into the season, and that veteran play was essential in the Hoosiers’ win over Rutgers.
First and foremost, the play of the AP Preseason All-American Holmes was an obvious X-factor for Indiana. She tallied a season-high 25 points on 12-for-15 shooting and added eight rebounds, dominating the paint on the offensive end. The one-two punch of Holmes and Parrish in the post sliced through the Scarlet Knights’ defense.
Parrish provided Indiana with her second double-double of the season posting 14 points and 10 boards. Although she was averaging 8.5 points per game compared to last season’s 12 points per game, Parrish has strung together three straight games with double-digit rebounds, including a 17-point performance in a Nov. 30 comeback win over Maine. Moren has high praise for the University of Oregon transfer in her second year with the Hoosiers.
“Syd has been a great addition to Indiana and our program,” Moren said. “Syd is a special kid, and she’s about all the right things.”
The playmaking capabilities of Moore-McNeil were also on full display against the Scarlet Knights. After Indiana lost its assist leader, senior guard Grace Berger to the WNBA draft, there was an obvious gap that needed to be filled for a primary facilitator in the half-court offense. Moore-McNeil stepped up into that role and then some against Rutgers, finishing with a team-high seven assists to go along with 11 points on the offensive end. Additionally, she’s provided Indiana with a team-high 1.8 steals per game, good for 14th best in the conference.
Indiana’s upperclassmen scored 55 of the team’s 66 points against Rutgers, proving the importance of composure in a hostile environment.
“Tonight was one of those nights where we had to keep the vets on the floor,” Moren said. “You can’t rely on inexperience when you're in a tight game like this.”
Next up for the Hoosiers is a pair of non-conference games at home against the University of Evansville on Dec. 18 and Bowling Green University on Dec. 22 before the bulk of Big Ten Play resumes.
The matchup with Evansville is set to tip-off at 7 p.m. Monday and will be broadcast on Big Ten+.