BLOOMINGTON — The crowd at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall knew it was coming.
Mackenzie Holmes was one basket away from history. After two free throws and a layup in the first 1:16 of the fourth quarter on Sunday against Purdue, the graduate student needed just two more points to pass Tyra Buss and become Indiana women’s basketball’s all-time leading scorer.
And the 13,304 Hoosiers fans in attendance — the biggest crowd for an IU women’s game so far this season — were fully aware. There wasn’t a scoreboard prompt or a countdown anywhere in the arena. The fans just knew.
“The fans here, they just get it,” Holmes said after the game. “They know basketball. They feel the momentum of the game.”
And in that moment, as Holmes closed in on the program record, the fans moved to the edge of their seats. The players on IU’s bench did, too. People throughout the crowd held up their phones, recording video of every IU possession, to capture the historic moment.
The Hoosiers were up on their rivals by 26 points entering the fourth quarter. The result, barring a catastrophic collapse, was decided. IU head coach Teri Moren never talked with Holmes about the record in the days preceding the game, or even during it. But Moren knew the graduate student was just six points away going into the final period, and she was determined to get Holmes across the line on her home court.
“Oh yeah, (I knew). Oh yeah,” Moren said. “We were going to get it, one way or another.”
Holmes missed her first shot attempt that would’ve broken the record, a layup with 7:34 to go. Assembly Hall prematurely erupted as the ball bounced up off the rim — as loud as an arena can get over a missed layup in a blowout game.
And the anticipation only grew. The closer the Maine native got to history, the less patient the Hoosiers became. They continually fed Holmes in the post — by design — but their execution on some offensive sets slipped. And the broken possessions that led to caused to Moren grow frustrated, even with the high enthusiasm throughout the building.
She called a timeout after a few minutes, and with Purdue on a 7-0 run. The players were clearly aware of the situation, and Moren wanted to get them settled and refocused. She put Yarden Garzon back into the game, and called a ghost action through the sophomore to set up Holmes in the low post. The forward received the pass, and executed a move she’s done countless times over the last five years: spinning towards the basket and seamlessly laying the ball in around the defender.
“We knew that Yarden could deliver the goods. And she did,” Moren said. “It was great to see the thing go in.”
The crowd roared. Public address announcer Jeremy Gray exclaimed, “Holmes for two, and history.” The graduate student scored her 2,365th career point — more than any other IU women’s basketball player. It also put her into the top 10 in Big Ten history.
— Indiana Women’s Basketball (@IndianaWBB) February 11, 2024
The game rolled on, so there wasn’t an immediate chance for anyone on the court to react — Indiana had to get back on defense.
The cheers persisted as the Hoosiers got a defensive stop and came back down the floor. The ball went out of bounds after a Purdue block, and as IU set up a baseline in-bounds play, Garzon smiled and gave Holmes a small hug from behind.
These sorts of scenes were not only special for Holmes. These are memorable moments for the rest of IU’s team, whether on the court or on the bench.
“In those moments, you’re just in awe of the crowd, of the atmosphere. You soak it all in, as well,” senior Chloe Moore-McNeil said. “You’re always happy for a teammate that makes such a great accomplishment. She deserves it.”
Garzon made a shot out of that set play, and then Moren called timeout to take Holmes out of the game. The fans rose to their feet as Lilly Meister ran to the scorer’s table to check in, and she embraced Holmes. That began a long line of hugs as the All-American made her way down the IU sideline. First Moren, then her assistants. She shared particularly big hugs with associate head coach Rhet Wierzba, her position coach, and teammate-turned-coach Ali Patberg.
And then Holmes’ teammates greeted her. Freshman Jules LaMendola lifted her up in the air in celebration.
“The applause, the cheering, all that was pretty special,” Moren said. “I know that her teammates were super excited for her.”
Holmes checked out with 4:24 left to play. The rest of the game flew by from there, but the recognition wasn’t finished. The teams shook hands after IU’s 95-62 victory concluded, and then several teammates dumped water bottles on Holmes in excitement. The student section chanted, “Mack! Mack! Mack!”
The team eventually migrated back towards its bench, when a video played on the scoreboard with congratulatory messages from Buss, and other program greats Amanda Cahill and Denise Jackson.
Holmes had avoided thinking about the scoring record for so long — she’s frequently said she’s only talked about it when media asked her about it. She knew entering the season that Buss’ mark was within reach, but she was more focused on attaining team success. After the Michigan State game on Thursday, she said she cared a lot more about securing a career sweep over Purdue than breaking the record.
But as the tribute video played and the celebration continued, Holmes became emotional. The weight of her accomplishment was finally sinking in, and the pressure it caused was finally eased. She wiped tears from her eyes, acknowledged the cheering fans several times, and then went to the locker room with her teammates.
Holmes now can return to the main reason she returned to the Hoosiers — to win a lot of basketball games. But not before she felt the admiration from her peers and fans for her individual achievement, and embraced those moments.
“I’m just extremely thankful,” Holmes said. “I’ve played with some really, really amazing people. I’ve played for the best coaches in the country. And it’s just a really special thing for me to wear Indiana across my chest every single day and play in Assembly Hall. It’s just been one of the greatest blessings of my life.”
One for the record books. pic.twitter.com/2wd43amp7T
— Indiana Women’s Basketball (@IndianaWBB) February 11, 2024
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