BLOOMINGTON — Coming off its first loss of the season, Indiana women’s basketball faced a big test.
The fourth-ranked Hoosiers hosted Nebraska, one of the stronger teams in the Big Ten, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. And the Cornhuskers pushed IU hard. The game was tight the entire way, with neither team leading by more than seven points in regulation.
Even the standard 40 minutes wasn’t enough to separate the Hoosiers and Huskers, as they went to overtime tied at 62. And Indiana clamped down defensively in overtime, holding Nebraska scoreless through the entire period. That propelled IU to a 74-62 win.
IU head coach Teri Moren chalked up the suffocating late-game defense to improving in transition.
“Their arsenal is they get a lot of threes, early in offense, in transition,” Moren said. ” And so it was reminding them that, in transition, you have nobody. You just can’t run back to your player. There are jobs that each of us have to do. We still have work to do, and we’ve got to get better after each game. But it was certainly something that, trust me, we prepped for. We knew that that was part of what they like to do offensively, and we didn’t answer the bell in that first quarter, for sure. But I thought we started figuring some things out as the game went on.”
Indiana (13-1, 3-1 Big Ten) leaned on senior Mackenzie Holmes again, who continued her strong run of play after setting a career-high in points at Michigan State on Thursday. Nebraska (10-5, 2-2) wasn’t throwing double-teams at the All-American, and she feasted. Holmes was the best player on the floor, leading Indiana with 22 points on an 8-of-14 line, along with 10 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season. She added three assists, five blocks, and one steal.
Holmes was particularly proud of her defensive efforts against last year’s Big Ten freshman of the year Alexis Markowski. The sophomore averaged 13 points and 9.6 rebounds per game entering Sunday, and IU held her to 10 points and six rebounds.
“I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me in that game with Markowski, because she’s a really good player. She can play inside, she can play outside. So I knew I was going to have to bring it on the defensive end tonight,” Holmes said. “We really repped it in practice, and I thought our defensive help was there when she put the ball on the floor. So I thought we did an all-around great team effort guarding her tonight.”
But like the Michigan State game, Holmes didn’t get a ton of help for most of the game. Indiana was ice cold from 3-point range for most of the afternoon — Sydney Parrish hit IU’s first triple in the first quarter, and by the time she hit the team’s second in the fourth quarter, IU was 1 for 12 from deep. The Hoosiers finished 4 of 16 from beyond the arc.
Parrish accounted for most of that 3-point activity, shooting 3 for 9 from deep. It’s not easy, she acknowledged, to keep firing away after missing so many in a row.
“As a shooter, you go through slumps, and it’s kind of hard. I think I missed four or five in a row,” Parrish said. “But at halftime — and even in the fourth quarter, I air-balled one, and coach Moren just said, ‘Keep shooting. Keep shooting.’ Knowing that she has that confidence in me really gives me the confidence to keep shooting the ball.”
Holmes’ production fizzled in the fourth quarter, as Parrish and Chloe Moore-McNeil got going. Parrish got up to 16 points with 10 coming in the fourth quarter and overtime, and Moore-McNeil scored nine in the second half to tally 13 overall. Yarden Garzon (11 points) also finished in double-figures.
Nebraska, as a team, posted a higher field-goal percentage than IU. That was the case for most of the game, though Indiana played especially strong defense in the second quarter and in overtime. The Hoosiers made up the difference through turnovers — IU forced 21 turnovers and gave away 13, and IU turned those Nebraska giveaways into 26 points.
IU also capitalized on a big foul disparity. The Hoosiers went 24 for 30 at the free-throw line, but Nebraska attempted just nine.
Freshman guard Lexus Bargesser played a big role off the bench for the Hoosiers, with her finest game in an IU uniform. She played strong defense against Nebraska standout Jaz Shelley, and looked comfortable running the point for IU’s offense. Bargesser finished with four points and four rebounds, and seems to have a growing importance to IU with Grace Berger still recovering from her knee injury.
“Lexie is getting better,” Moren said. “Up at Michigan State she had great minutes for us, and you could just see her getting a little bit better inside of every game. That’s good for us, because it gives us another point guard. When Grace gets back, we’ll go back to having three point guards, which is a nice luxury to have. She’s growing up right in front of our eyes, which is a really good thing, and she’s done a fantastic job.”
IU hits the road on Sunday to take on Northwestern.
Indiana women’s basketball showed a lot about themselves through response to first loss
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