BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — No Grace Berger, no problem.
Indiana women’s basketball faced a top-10 opponent in just its second game since the All-American went down with a knee injury, and the Hoosiers didn’t miss a beat. The fifth-ranked Hoosiers dominated No. 6 North Carolina for much of the evening and ran away with a 87-63 win Thursday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
This was Indiana’s largest margin of victory against a ranked opponent since 1999-2000.
UNC head coach Courtney Banghart came away impressed with IU.
“It’s a team that can spread you out, they’ve got one of the better centers in the game. They cut with incredible pace. They trust each other. There’s no one guy that’s trying to run that show,” Banghart said. “I think Berger has been a champion of that, helping the team, so I’m not surprised that when she’s out they would move the ball as well as they do. But that’s a really good basketball team with very good players.”
Indiana (8-0) rode a dazzling shooting display to victory. As a team, the Hoosiers shot 53 percent from the field and a whopping 55 percent from 3-point range. Hamilton Southeastern grad Sydney Parrish led the onslaught, racking up 24 points on a 9 of 15 clip. She went 4 for 7 from beyond the arc.
Eight of IU’s 11 made threes came in the first half. Parrish hit two of those, and Sara Scalia hit three. The Hoosiers seemed to feed off each other when those outside shots fell.
“Coming into this year, we knew that three point shooting was gonna be big for us,” Parrish said. “And I think we all just worked really hard at it in practice. I mean, I changed my shot this week, Coach Sy (Linda Sayavongchanh) and I changed my shot. I guess it worked tonight.”
North Carolina (6-1) keyed in on Mackenzie Holmes defensively, playing her very physically and often denying the entry pass at all costs. But she battled hard through that pressure and enjoyed another strong game. Holmes shot 10 for 17 for a team-high 25 points.
North Carolina got off to the stronger start, building a 7-0 lead in the opening minutes. But IU took control quickly, and the Tar Heels never regained footing in the game. IU outscored UNC by 23 points through the rest of the first half, going into the locker room up 49-33.
Scalia finished 4 for 7 from 3-point range, with several coming from way downtown. Chloe Moore-McNeil enjoyed perhaps the best game of her Indiana career, with 10 points, seven rebounds, and a career-high nine assists — with no turnovers. Freshman Yarden Garzon also enjoyed another strong night, with nine points, seven rebounds, and seven assists.
Garzon’s passing ability was on full display, with several highlight-reel plays. When the Tar Heels were applying significant pressure on Holmes inside, Garzon broke down the defense with a behind-the-back pass to set up a Holmes and-one. With Berger out, that facilitating will be very important for IU.
“We feel like — as a staff — we can put the ball in Yarden’s hands, we can set her a high ball-screen, we can give it her at the pinch post. She’s going to make a good decision. She very rarely makes the wrong decision,” Moren said. “That’s nothing that we’ve taught. She is a very, very good basketball player, that just happens to be a freshman.”
Moren is already seeing her group — one with many new faces since last season — start to look special. The team’s firepower has shown up early in the season, but she’s seeing her squad buy into things like defense and rebounding that have been hallmarks of her program in the past.
“We have a lot of veterans. We have a lot of maturity out there. We have a lot of wisdom out there. A lot of kids who have played in big-time games. Tonight was no different,” Moren said. “This is a team that has high expectations. We have lofty goals. They know that every game we play is important, but it’s part of the process of getting to where we want to ultimately be.”
Berger was at the game in sweats, sporting crutches when she wasn’t sitting on the bench. Kiandra Browne was also not in uniform, as she continues to battle a thumb injury that’s kept her out of game action all season.
Moren reiterated that Berger is out “indefinitely” and is without a timeline for returning. She said Browne is progressing in her rehab, but is still around a month away from being in position to return to the doctor for possible clearance to come back.
Sophomore Kailtin Peterson was not on the bench, and The Daily Hoosier confirmed the guard has left the program (first reported by The Hoosier Network).
Indiana opens Big Ten play on Sunday at home against Illinois.
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