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Indiana women’s basketball suffers first loss of the season at Michigan State

Something was off for Indiana women’s basketball all afternoon Thursday at Michigan State.

It had become a foregone conclusion this season to see the No. 4 Hoosiers overcome days like that and find ways to win. But this time, they couldn’t.

Michigan State (9-5, 1-2 Big Ten) never let IU find a rhythm, and the Spartans dictated the whole game. And they came out 83-78 winners, handing IU its first loss of the season.

“We’re disappointed. We dug ourselves a little hole in the first half, and then fought our way back to pull within striking distance at halftime. Second half, we tied it up, and then we went down and gave up a three-point play and lost the momentum again,” IU head coach Teri Moren said. “Give our kids credit, they fought to the bitter end. I’m disappointed. But Michigan State deserved to win this game today.”

Indiana (12-1, 2-1) missed a big chance late in the game. Freshman forward Yarden Garzon hit a big 3-pointer to cut the score to 79-76 Spartans, and then MSU was whistled for an offensive foul on the ensuing in-bound, giving IU possession with a chance to tie the game. But junior guard Sara Scalia traveled, her fifth turnover of the game. IU couldn’t recover.

Senior forward Mackenzie Holmes, in her first-ever trip to Breslin Center, did all she could to put Indiana on her back. She recorded her fourth double-double of the season, with a career-high 32 points and 10 rebounds. Garzon picked things up in the second half, and finished with 17 points on an 7-of-11 clip. But the Hoosiers couldn’t get going from 3-point range, shooting 3 for 12 from beyond the arc, and they just didn’t get enough out of their guards.

Michigan State’s defense forced nearly 23.9 turnovers per game entering this game, sixth-most in the country. And the Spartans were at it again. Indiana committed a season-high 21 turnovers (with just 19 assists), and MSU converted the giveaways into 28 points.

Garzon and senior Sara Scalia committed five turnovers each, while junior Chloe Moore-McNeil was responsible for four.

Despite the big number of giveaways, Moren doesn’t have long-term concerns about her team’s ball security. She added that Grace Berger’s absence may have contributed to that problem Thursday.

“We made adjustments there in the second half, and I thought we were much better,” Moren said. “This is a team that isn’t used to seeing a press. I think not having Grace out there as well — you know how well Grace takes care of the ball. Maybe teams would have a different perspective on trying to press us (if she was playing). But we’ll get that fixed. I’m not worried about that.”

IU’s typically tight defense was more forgiving on this occasion. The Spartans out-muscled Indiana inside, and found enough space to make plays around Hoosier defenders. Spartans graduate transfer guard Kamaria McDaniel proved a difficult matchup for IU, as she shot 10 of 17 for 24 points. Sophomore guard Matilda Ekh and senior forward Taiyer Parks also caused IU a lot of problems, as both shot 7 for 9 for 18 points.

Moren attributed IU’s tough defensive game to struggles containing Michigan State’s drives, and credited McDaniel and Parks for strong performances.

Indiana returns to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall to host Nebraska on Sunday afternoon.

Holmes said the Hoosiers are already mentally preparing for that next game and know they can’t afford to wallow in defeat.

“We have a quick turnaround, playing Nebraska here in a couple days, so we don’t have much time to feel sorry for ourselves. We don’t have any time at all, actually,” Holmes said. “We’re just going to get back in the gym, figure out what went wrong, and clean that up.”