BLOOMINGTON — In its first game in two weeks, Indiana women’s basketball took care of business to open the NCAA Tournament.
The No. 1-seeded Hoosiers pulled away from No. 16 seed Tennessee Tech for a comfortable 77-47 win on Saturday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. IU advances to the second round and will face No. 9 seed Miami (Fla.) on Monday.
First team All-American Mackenzie Holmes missed this game with knee soreness. Around an hour before tipoff, the program announced that the senior would be available but limited, but she did not end up playing. Freshman Lilly Meister started in her place, with Alyssa Geary coming off the bench as needed.
Here are three keys to IU’s victory.
Indiana turned up the heat in the second quarter
Tennessee Tech hung in the game during the first quarter thanks to good outside shooting and offensive rebounds. Indiana’s offense was humming, but had some trouble closing out on shooters.
But IU found a rhythm in the second quarter. The Golden Eagles couldn’t sustain their shooting, and Indiana figure things out defensively. Tech didn’t commit a single turnover in the first quarter, but IU forced five giveaways in the second, and burned the Golden Eagles in transition. That sparked a huge 17-0 Indiana run in the middle of the quarter to break the game open.
IU finished the quarter with a 21-0 advantage. The Hoosiers used a balanced attack in the period, with four points each from Meister, Grace Berger, Lexus Bargesser, and Sydney Parrish.
Grace Berger turned in a vintage performance
Berger was the clear best player on the floor from the opening tip.
It became evident very quickly that Tennessee Tech hadn’t seen a player like her all season. The Golden Eagles tried to defend her with a lot of physicality, which led to a lot of early fouls. She attempted seven free throws in the first half, and there were several fouls that went uncalled.
But that didn’t shake the All-American. She was in total command the entire game. She orchestrated the Hoosier offense like a maestro. Berger swerved through Golden Eagle defenders with ease, cut them open with precise passes, and played strong defense as well. Tennessee Tech had no answers for her.
The senior finished with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, seven rebounds, four assists, and three blocks.
With Mackenzie Holmes out, Lilly Meister stepped up
Lilly Meister is not Mackenzie Holmes.
Indiana — nor anyone — can reasonably expect her to be. Holmes has been one of the best players in the country this season, on both ends of the floor. Meister has played well this season when given the opportunity, but in much smaller doses when the senior is healthy and fully available.
But that wasn’t the case Saturday, and IU tapped in the freshman for her first career start. She can’t suddenly morph into Holmes. But she played well in her own right.
The Hoosiers looked for Meister in the post, especially early in the game. That actually forced the Golden Eagles to send some double-teams, like they would’ve against Holmes. And that’s when things started to open up even more for IU’s offense. Meister finished with seven points on 3-for-4 shooting, along with four rebounds.
She was good on defense as well. Meister — and most of the Hoosiers — had a real size advantage over Tennessee Tech, which she took advantage of. The freshman swatted three blocks, which tied Berger for the team lead. That contributed to Indiana’s NCAA Tournament-record 11 blocks as a team.