BLOOMINGTON — Indiana women’s basketball rang in the new year in style.
The Hoosiers never quite put the game out of reach against Illinois on New Year’s Eve, and the atmosphere grew increasingly tense in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall as the game got later. The Fighting Illini tied the game multiple times in the fourth quarter, but could never quite pull ahead, as Indiana came away with a 77-71 win on Sunday.
Graduate student forward Mackenzie Holmes has had plenty of big games throughout her career. And her performance on Sunday ranked among the biggest, when Indiana (11-1, 2-0 Big Ten) needed her most. The All-American scored a season-high 30 points on a 10-0f-14 line, with seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and two steals. She committed five turnovers for the second consecutive game. But Holmes took the game over in the final minutes, as Illinois (6-6, 0-2) had very few answers for her inside prowess.
Indiana led at halftime, 37-31. The Hoosiers didn’t get much going from outside the arc, finishing the half just 1 for 6. But strong efforts from Holmes (15 points) and senior point guard Chloe Moore-McNeil (10 points) kept the Hoosiers in front for most of the half.
The third quarter turned into a game of runs. The Fighting Illini cut the deficit to as low as two points early in the third quarter, but the Hoosiers responded quickly with a 9-0 run to re-establish a more comfortable lead. But then, later in the period, Illinois fired back with a 12-2 run to get within one point of the Hoosiers.
Moore-McNeil’s scoring was really important on Sunday, with Sara Scalia and Sydney Parrish having down games. The point guard shot 7 for 11 from the field, including 2 for 3 from 3-point range, for a season-high 19 points. That also tied her career-high.
The team’s 3-point shooting improved in the second half, as the Hoosiers went 4 for 7 from beyond the arc. Sophomore forward Yarden Garzon hit a clutch three — perhaps the biggest shot of the game — to give Indiana a four-point lead with less than a minute to go. That basket put the game away.
The Hoosiers are back in action on Thursday when they host Michigan.