Indiana has had little trouble with the teams it has been supposed to beat this season. It’s the ranked opponents that have given the Hoosiers some issues. For a chunk of Sunday’s matinee against No. 21 Northwestern, it looked like that trend might continue.
But a dominant second-half spurt reversed IU’s course, propelling the No. 16 Hoosiers to a convincing 72-61 victory at Welsh-Ryan Arena — their first in the building since 2016. Indiana trailed by 13 points midway through the third quarter, but gradually chipped away entering the fourth. Then, in the final frame, an 18-1 run not only helped put IU in front, but carried the Hoosiers to their fourth consecutive win.
Mackenzie Holmes posted a double-double, recording team highs in points (22) and rebounds (10). Grace Berger added 14 points and Jaelynn Penn made her return to the floor with a 12-point performance in Evanston. For Holmes, Sunday marked her eighth consecutive game in double figures.
All told, IU outscored Northwestern 26-7 in the fourth quarter, during which the Wildcats went more than seven minutes without a field goal.
“This is a difficult place to win,” IU coach Teri Moren said. “It’s a great basketball team that we faced this afternoon. We are real pleased with the way that we kept plugging away and hanging in there.”
After a 10-day layoff, it took time for IU to get going. Indiana’s first-half effort wasn’t necessarily bad, it just wasn’t as crisp as it needed to be. The Hoosiers committed eight errors across the first 20 minutes. In the second half, IU’s offense settled in and went to work, with the Hoosiers going 9-for-19 inside the arc and 17-for-21 at the line over the final two periods. IU also had to navigate foul trouble of its own, with Aleksa Gulbe picking up five in 30 minutes and Ali Patberg picking up three of her four personals in the first half.
“We got off to a slow start,” Moren said. “No doubt about it that this is a really great basketball team that we were facing here today. They put a lot of pressure on you in a lot of ways, not just defensively. But offensively with (Lindsey) Pulliam and Veronica Burton in how they can score the ball and how veteran they are, and their experience. This is a championship team last year. We knew that it was not going to be easy. Of course, we wanted to get off to a better start. I did think the second half, even though they went off on that 10-0 run in the third, we kept chipping away. We kept telling them about getting stops. It starts with getting stops. We have to get back in transition, and we have to get stops. We just had to chip away into the lead a little bit that Northwestern had.”
That, they did.
IU returns to action on Sunday, Jan. 31 against Michigan State at Assembly Hall.