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Late surge pushes No. 10 IU past Purdue, 74-59

Indiana finishes the regular season with a program-record 16 Big Ten wins

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Iowa vs Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue arrived at Assembly Hall aiming to turn Saturday’s game into a grind. For three quarters, the Boilermakers succeeded in that quest. They slowed the pace of the contest, attacked the glass and seized upon Indiana’s mistakes, forcing the Hoosiers to sweat through the regular season finale.

But Mackenzie Holmes rose to the moment in the fourth, scoring 11 of her game-high 26 points over the final 10 minutes to propel the No. 10 Hoosiers to a 74-59 victory. The win is IU’s program-record 16th Big Ten triumph of the season, and the fifth straight over the Boilermakers.

“It seemed like offensively, this was not our finest 40 minutes,” IU coach Teri Moren said. “But none the less, that fourth quarter in particular, we had figured some things out.”

That started with defense and continued with Holmes, who posted her second straight 20-point performance and finished just a rebound shy of a double-double. Interestingly, she also posted a career-best four assists, drawing defenders and quickly dishing to open teammates. One of the beneficiaries was Aleksa Gulbe, who finished with 14 points and served as a steadying presence early in the contest. Holmes’ ball movement had a part in lifting her up.

“We call it the Latvian-Maine connection,” Holmes joked. “We’re the only team that has a Latvian and a person from Maine, so we’re always looking for each other.”

With the Hoosiers leading by just two points entering the final quarter, the Hoosiers looked to Holmes, who helped IU rip off a 14-2 run to start the period. Indiana shot 7-for-13 from the field during the fourth quarter, while holding Purdue to a mere 3-for-13 showing over the final minutes. As a team, Indiana recorded 21 assists on 30 baskets, including a team-high six from Nicole Cardaño-Hillary.

Indiana shot 49% for the day, 31% from beyond the arc and just 59% from the line. The Hoosiers edged the Boilers on the boards, 37-36, and scored 21 points in transition. Cardaño-Hillary scored 11 points and supplied two of IU’s four 3-pointers. Grace Berger posted 10 points, six rebounds and four assists.

Indiana also received some good minutes from reserves Hannah Noveroske and Grace Waggoner. Noveroske recorded three rebounds and a block, while giving the Hoosiers added help against Purdue’s size. Waggoner supplied two crucial, uplifting free throws early in Indiana’s fourth-quarter run.

“I thought Hannah came in and was excited,” Moren said. “She was ready for the moment and she did a lot of nice things the first time she went in on both sides. … Grace Waggoner comes in for that deadball situation. She gets switched onto Kayana Traylor and blocks her shot. Big play. Then in the fourth, her two free throws. She stepped up right after Nikki had missed.”

Up next is the Big Ten Tournament. A complete bracket is expected to be released later Saturday night, though IU is already locked into the No. 2 seed.