For 20 minutes, it felt like Indiana was stumbling toward another regrettable home loss. Michigan State was seemingly getting every shot it wanted, and for the most part, it was making them.
But a refocused second-half defensive effort coupled with balanced scoring on the other end helped No. 16 IU bounce past Michigan State and earn a 79-67 win on Sunday evening at Assembly Hall.
After giving up 41 points in the first half and finding themselves staring at an eight-point deficit at the intermission, the Hoosiers proceeded to outscore the Spartans 34-17 over the first 13 minutes of the second half to create the separation needed for the win. And this wasn’t just any old conference victory. No, this was IU’s fourth in the last five meetings with Michigan State and the 800th in program history.
And it happened because of the defense.
“We had a really good second half against a team that was on fire in the first,” IU coach Teri Moren said. “I consider us a pretty good guarding team and we just had no answer.”
Consider the rate at which Michigan State was getting to the basket across the first two quarters. The Spartans shot 66.7% from the field during the opening half, making seven of their 11 overall shots in the first period and going 8-for-9 from inside the arc in the second quarter. Jaelynn Penn, in particular, did a good job late on Spartans standout Nia Clouden, who finished with 19 points but shot only 4-for-13 from the field in the second half.
IU switched to a zone for a spell in the third quarter, but it didn’t yield the consistent results Moren was looking for. So the Hoosiers went back to man and, as if flipping a switch, turned up their intensity and disrupted the Spartans the rest of the way.
“I thought we did a better job in the second half of crowding their low post players,” Moren said. “We made shots more difficult for Alisia Smith and Taiyier Parks in there. They were getting some comfortable looking shots in the first half, so I thought we did a much better job of being aggressive.”
On the offensive end for the Hoosiers, six players scored at least seven points and four finished in double figures. Mackenzie Holmes led the way with 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting, Ali Patberg added 15, Aleksa Gulbe scored 14 and Penn contributed 13 to the winning effort.
Perhaps most encouraging was that, three days after the Hoosiers missed their final 13 3-point attempts in an eight-point loss to Ohio State, they drilled 70% (7-for-10) of their shots from beyond the arc on Sunday. Penn hit each of her three attempts from long range, Gulbe knocked down two and Patberg and Nicole Cardano-Hillary each had one.
Turnovers, however, were once again an issue for IU, which totaled 16 errors on Sunday and have now racked up 33 miscues across the past two games. But the Hoosiers were able to get some ball movement going, finishing with 17 assists on 27 field goals.
“Give our kids a ton of credit for this second half and showing up in a big way when it seemed like we didn’t have an answer,” Moren said. “I thought our kids really battled.”