Indiana women’s basketball’s game against Maine on Thursday may have felt like a dream for Gorham, Maine native Mackenzie Holmes and her family going in.
But it quickly started to feel like a nightmare for the 17th-ranked Hoosiers. They put on an extremely poor display in the first half, one of their worst performances in a long time. IU trailed Maine 37-29 at halftime. The Hoosiers struggled defensively, got out-rebounded by the Black Bears, and shot just 34 percent as a team on the other end.
But IU regrouped enough in the second half to get the job done, thanks to a big fourth quarter turnaround. Indiana (6-1) came away with a 67-59 victory.
Maine (4-4) performed admirably for a lot of the game, capitalizing on Indiana’s lackadaisical play for much of the night. Graduate student guard Anne Simon, in particular, proved a difficult assignment for IU. Simon racked up a career-high 34 points on a 12-for-24 line, with 11 rebounds and five steals.
IU head coach Teri Moren has harped on her team’s defense regularly throughout the beginning of this season, and she acknowledged it wasn’t good enough in the first half Thursday. She said it wasn’t an effort issue, but a focus issue.
“I don’t think effort’s ever an issue with our team,” Moren said. “I think sometimes, when your shot’s not falling, and our shots weren’t falling, that affects us defensively. And that’s crap. That can’t happen. And then the other part of that is I think you’ve got to be super focused on a team that back-cuts, has this much movement with their handoffs, their backdoor cuts. You’ve got to be super focused, you’ve got to stay below your man, and we got caught a couple times, relaxing. And that’s what it was.”
But IU pulled this out with a big effort in the fourth quarter. The Hoosiers shot 57.1 percent from the field as a team in the final period. Maine’s offense cooled off in the second half, which helped, though IU’s defense got a little better to help force that drop-off. The Hoosiers trailed for more than half of the game, and after falling behind in the first quarter, they didn’t regain the lead until midway through the fourth quarter.
Sydney Parrish stepped up in a big way in the second half, part of the reason Indiana was able to come back. After going scoreless in the first half, she scored 17 points in the second half. She shot 6 for 13 from the field, including a 2-for-5 mark from 3-point range. She also grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds, for her first double-double of the season.
“We didn’t come out in the first half very strong, but we knew we had to lock our toes down and get stops on defense, and defensive stops lead to our offense,” Parrish said. “We know we’re a great shooting team, and our shots will go down. So we just have to have confidence in each other.”
Holmes played well in her homecoming game. She led IU with 22 points, on an 9-for-11 clip, with seven rebounds, one steal, and two blocks. For large periods of this game, the All-American was the only really reliable source of offense for the Hoosiers, and Maine made it hard for them to get her the ball.
The graduate student had a lot of fans in the stands, between family, friends, and local fans. She said Moren helped ease the pressure of the moment before the game, which helped her perform well.
“I was trying to just keep my emotions steady,” Holmes said. “But then after the game, seeing everybody there, means a lot to me. I’m very blessed to have the support system that I do here.”
Sara Scalia also scored in double digits, shooting 3 for 11 from the field — 3 for 8 from 3-point range — for 10 points, along with five rebounds.
The Hoosiers return home on Sunday to take on Stetson.