Mackenzie Holmes has accomplished so much throughout her Indiana women’s basketball career.
But on Sunday, she may experience her biggest achievement yet.
Holmes, following her 28-point performance against Michigan State on Thursday, sits at 2,348 career points — 17 shy of passing Tyra Buss to become the program’s all-time leading scorer. Given that Holmes is scoring 22.5 points per game since Big Ten play restarted on December 31, she will most likely reach the milestone on Sunday against Purdue.
Buss set her mark in four seasons, from 2014 to 2018. She led the Hoosiers to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 14 years and its first tournament victory in 33 years, in Teri Moren’s second season in Bloomington. Buss capped her career with a WNIT Championship in 2018, a run that sparked the program’s rise over the next several years.
“Records are made to be broken,” Buss told The Daily Hoosier in a phone interview from Spain on Friday. “To be able to have a player like Mackenzie break that record is truly amazing. Such an awesome accomplishment, and just a testament to all the hard work she’s put in over the last five years at IU.”
Holmes already has quite a legacy with Indiana women’s basketball. She’s the program’s all-time winningest player, after passing Grace Berger on Thursday with her 119th career victory. The forward is second in program history in blocks (240), and fifth in rebounds (936). And Holmes is on track to shatter the IU record for career field goal percentage (64 percent).
The graduate student became IU’s first-ever Associated Press All-American in 2021, and last season was the program’s first-ever first-team All-American. And with her Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award last season, she’s just the third Hoosier to win any individual conference award. Holmes, in passing Buss, will also enter the top 10 on the Big Ten’s all-time scoring list.
While Buss set IU’s scoring record in the traditional four seasons, Holmes needed the extra year of eligibility awarded to student-athletes who competed in the COVID-impacted 2020-21 season. Holmes already has played two more games than Buss across their careers.
Buss still holds the program record with 17.5 career points per game — Holmes has risen up to fourth at 17.1. Holmes would only have a realistic shot to pass Buss on average if IU makes deep runs in both the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.
But Holmes had to work through challenges during the COVID season that Buss never encountered in her collegiate career — and she still thrived. But Buss doesn’t mind that Holmes has had an extra year to set the career record.
“I would do the same thing. If I were her and I was in her shoes, I would take the extra year and play, because it’s just an amazing opportunity and experience,” Buss said. “Four, five, six, doesn’t matter how many years. She truly is deserving of this honor, and regardless of how many games or how many years it took her to do it, she is the all-time leading scorer. And she is fortunate enough to get that extra year. If I were her, I would’ve done the exact same thing.”
Current IU assistant coach Ali Patberg was teammates with both Buss and Holmes during her own illustrious Hoosiers career. She witnessed both players redefine what’s possible to achieve in an Indiana uniform, and she helped Holmes redefine what’s possible for Indiana women’s basketball to accomplish.
Patberg saw Buss’ greatness up close. And during a preseason interview, she marveled that Holmes has approached this record.
“It’s awesome. Amazing that we’re even talking about that, because Tyra was such a great player. And she set the foundation for Mack. And Mack knows that,” Patberg told The Daily Hoosier in October. I think when you’re a part of the program, you score 1,000 points, you are the leading scorer, you understand that you get the record, but they’re meant to be broken. And that’s when you know your program has true success.”
Mackenzie’s brother Cam, a practice player for the team from 2019 through 2022, didn’t overlap with Buss in the program. He joined the Hoosiers at the same time as Mackenzie.
He, obviously, has had a closer look than most to how hard his sister has worked throughout her IU career and in the years preceding it. He said she would trade any individual records for team success, and she’s repeatedly echoed similar sentiments.
But Cam said this record will be significant for Mackenzie.
“Tyra was known as the poster child of Indiana women’s basketball and all she did, first-team All-Big Ten. And I think it’s almost as if it’s like a passing of the torch from Tyra to the next generation of Hoosiers,” Cam told The Daily Hoosier in October. “Maybe there will be someone else that comes along that eventually breaks Mackenzie’s records, but as we know, with the COVID year, the extra year of eligibility, a lot of the records that are going to be set in the final year of the COVID extra eligibility are going to be pretty hard to break. But it’s a super meaningful record.”
After the Michigan State game, Holmes said she doesn’t think about the approaching record, and is more focused on beating Purdue to complete a career sweep over the Boilermakers.
Buss set the record during a road game at Penn State — a contest IU lost in the final minute. She appreciated her scoring feat, but it didn’t sit quite right with her for a while because it came in a loss. She knows Holmes is wired similarly, and is hoping the forward can set this mark under better circumstances.
But Buss also said it’s “amazing” that Holmes could set this record at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. And she’s hoping the graduate student soaks in that moment.
“Knowing her, she’s going to want to push it off, brush it off herself, cause she makes it about the team. But my advice to her is to just take it in, because it truly is an amazing accomplishment,” Buss said. “So I hope she just takes a second and kind of looks around and sees the crowd — I’m sure they’ll have a standing ovation for her, because that was so much deserving, it’ll be awesome to be able to do that in front of Hoosier Nation. There’s nothing like it. It’ll be a great experience for her to be able to enjoy that in front of the home crowd.”
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