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They’re back: IU women return Monday to top-10 nationally televised battle for first place

There will be no easing back into the swing of things for IU after a more than two week layoff.

No. 6/6 Indiana returns to action for the first time in 15 days as it battles No. 7/7 Michigan on Monday night. The tip is set for 7 p.m. Eastern and the contest will air on ESPN2.

First place in the Big Ten is on the line Monday night at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines only league loss came at Nebraska this season while the Hoosiers are the only team remaining with an unblemished conference record.

Michigan (18-2, 9-1) is on a six-game win streak heading into Monday’s matchup after sweeping the yearly series with Ohio State on Thursday. They are led by senior forward Naz Hillmon’s 20.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. Senior guard Leigha Brown adds 15.1 points per game while senior guard Emily Kiser adds 10.3 points per game. The Wolverines average 73.6 points per game and shoot 46.0 percent from the floor.

The 6-foot-2 Hillman will be particularly challenging for IU to contend with as they continue to confront life without leading scorer and rebounder Mackenzie Holmes.  The 6-foot-3 Holmes had a knee procedure and is not expected back until late February at the earliest.

Defense continues to be the name of the game for the Hoosiers, who hold teams to a league leading 57.8 points per game this season. No opponent has scored over 70 points this season and IU has defeated three Big Ten foes by 20 points or more.

COVID-19 protocols forced Indiana’s last three games to be postponed. In its last outing, Indiana defeated Purdue, 73-68, in overtime at Mackey Arena to hang on to the Barn Burner Trophy for the sixth-straight season.  The win at Purdue extended IU’s best Big Ten start in school history at 6-0. Its previous record was a 4-0 start in the 2019-20 season.

Streaks are on the line in Ann Arbor for Indiana as it comes in having won nine consecutive games this season and 15-straight Big Ten games dating back to Jan. 4, 2020. In addition, its 12-game road win streak is the second longest in the nation and also dates back to Jan. 2020.

In addition to fighting to stay atop the Big Ten, Indiana (14-2, 6-0) wants to optimize its standing in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament committee.  IU came in at No. 6 in the committee’s first of three top 16 reveals on Thursday. If the season ended today, the Hoosiers would be eyeing a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament according to the national selection committee.

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