There would be no fourth quarter collapse this time.
No. 7/8 Indiana pulled away in the second half and claimed a convincing 88-67 win over No. 13 Kentucky on Sunday evening at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington.
Forward Mackenzie Holmes poured in a career-high 29 points to the lead the way for IU. The Hoosiers moved to 2-0 on the season.
The 6-foot-3 Holmes scored in every way, making 11-of-15 shots overall including a 3-pointer to go with a 6-of-6 night from the free throw line. But the junior forward was particularly impactful running the floor, when she routinely beat the Wildcats to the other end for transition layups.
“I know how hard I’ve worked to get my body to where it is with the shape I’m in, so I know that’s going to be an advantage going into the game,” Holmes said after the contest. …. “I just had to use that to my advantage and run the floor when I see an opportunity. It’s always a point of emphasis for me to sprint the floor.”
Indiana put four in double figures, with starting guards Grace Berger, Ali Patberg and Nicole Cardano-Hillary adding 19, 16 and 12, respectively. Fellow starter Aleksa Gulbe added eight points, and she and Berger tied with a team-high nine rebounds.
“I think what’s special about our team is I don’t need to have 20 points a night to win,” Holmes said. “We have so many great players that anybody on any given night can go for 20 or 30.”
IU played in front of a large home crowd, the first time the team has played with fans on their home court since March of 2020.
“It was so great to have our fans back in the building tonight,” head coach Teri Moren said. “We anticipated a great crowd. Anytime you have two Top 20 teams that are playing one another this early in the season, it makes for some really good women’s basketball, and so really appreciate our fans, Hoosier Nation, showed up in a big way. We needed their energy throughout, our guys play off of their energy, so that was really great to see.”
The Hoosiers shot 54.2 percent overall from the field including 54.5 percent (6-of-11) from behind the 3-point arc. Kentucky made just 41.5 percent of its attempts from the field.
On the season IU is averaging 87 points a game through their first two contests, and while pushing the tempo has always been a point of emphasis, the Hoosiers seem to be especially effective playing downhill thus far. Holmes’ ability to sprint the court is one factor in that early success, but high-level play at point guard has also stood out to Moren.
“You have to have a point guard who is always catching the ball on the run like Nikki (Cardano-Hillary) is, and always looking ahead,” Moren said. “She’s really the one that sets our tempo.”
After making 7-of-8 threes in the opener at Butler, Cardano-Hillary made 3-of-5 against the Wildcats and added seven assists and six rebounds.
The win helped IU avenge a loss a year ago in Lexington after they led by nine points entering the final period. Kentucky outscored IU 28-14 in the fourth quarter in 2020. On Sunday evening it was all Hoosiers in the fourth, 23-14.
“Preparing for this game, it (last year’s game) was definitely something we thought about, and the feeling was still very fresh.” Grace Berger said. “We knew we had to keep pushing, and keep building the lead .”
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