Photo credit IU Athletics

Milestone achievements are becoming business as usual for IU women’s basketball

Indiana women’s basketball has achieved so much over the past several years.

The Hoosiers reached their first-ever Sweet Sixteen in 2021, and then did it again the very next season. They got to an Elite Eight. They reached the Big Ten Tournament championship game for the second time in program history. They hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament in Bloomington for the first time. Head coach Teri Moren recently became the program’s all-time winningest coach.

The milestones and landmark achievements have come so regularly, it starts to feel like business as usual. And that’s exactly the case for the program’s all-time best start to a season.

IU’s 92-83 win over Michigan on Monday sent the Hoosiers into a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten, with an 8-1 conference record. But it’s their 18-1 overall mark that’s historic. No other Indiana women’s basketball team has ever started 18-1.

This was a group that had some questions entering the season, with a lot of new faces set to play major roles. They answered those questions pretty quickly.

This is a veteran-heavy team, and that experience has been the biggest thing that’s led to this historic start.

“They don’t hit the panic button,” Moren said. “They stick together. They just show great maturity. I think that’s why we’ve gotten off to the start we have. This is a good basketball team. We have really good pieces.”

The high-end talent certainly helps. The Hoosiers pulled this off despite All-American guard Grace Berger missing eight games with a knee injury. IU’s depth and overall talent helped them get through that period mostly unscathed.

Senior forward Mackenzie Holmes is playing at an All-American level yet again, with six double-doubles in the last seven games. Her .673 field goal percentage is top-three in the nation, and she’s averaging 21.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game.

The talent around Holmes has helped her put up numbers like that. If opponents devote extra defenders to stopping her, Indiana has too many other good players that can get the job done.

“We can’t ask for her to do more in terms of what she’s giving us, night in and night out,” Moren said. “She is a difficult guard for anybody. But it’s also, she has great pieces around her that allow her to get some of those looks inside. We have no problem pounding the ball inside to her, but she’s become a great facilitator as well, someone that’s a willing passer. I think we are a team — I’ll say it — that has a lot of weapons. And I don’t know that you can just key in on one person.”

Berger has played in five games since returning from the injury, and hasn’t lost a step. Freshman Yarden Garzon has been one of the top 3-point shooters in the country, and junior transfer Sydney Parrish has been among the best in the Big Ten as well. Junior Chloe Moore-McNeil boasts one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the country.

These Hoosiers are significantly more potent offensively than their teams of the last few years were, but that hasn’t come at the expense of their defensive identity. IU allows the fewest points per game in the Big Ten, and makes life tough on opposition.

And for Holmes, the dedication that she and her teammates show on that end is what’s gotten them to this point.

“I think that we all take our scouting reports really seriously, and knowing personnel and knowing their tendencies. I think that just the buy-in that we have from this group has allowed us to have this much success so far,” Holmes said. “And not staying complacent with the success that we have had, and just continuing to keep getting better every day.”

With a little over a month left in the regular season, plenty of other milestones could be on the table. Berger is 93 points away from entering the top-10 on IU’s all-time scoring list. Holmes is 131 away from doing the same, and she’s 15 blocks away from moving into second in program history.

Holmes could have a shot at becoming IU’s first-ever Big Ten Player of the Year. This team is firmly in the race to bring home its first Big Ten regular season championship in 40 years. And it has a real chance to earn the program’s first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

There are a lot of tests yet to come. IU still has two games each against Ohio State and Iowa, the two other teams in the current three-way tie for first place, along with another game against the Wolverines.

The Hoosiers will have plenty of opportunities to further prove themselves. And if they do, there could be even more firsts on the way for this ascending program.

But with the way things have gone for them over the last few years, it would just be business as usual.

The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”