Indiana women’s basketball kicked off their holiday break on a high note, defeating Butler 67-50 earlier this afternoon in Assembly Hall. The win improves the fourth-ranked Hoosiers’ overall record to 12-0 (2-0 Big Ten) and locks up their third undefeated non-conference campaign under head coach Teri Moren.
Today’s game was a bit strange. Don’t know if it was the 1pm midweek start or what, but Indiana committed six turnovers in the first quarter, and nearly all of them were preventable. A pass to nobody here, an overthrow there, a weird held ball situation. The first five minutes or so were some of the ugliest the Hoosiers have played all season but they got it together and ended up winning this one fairly handily. Here’s three things:
We are starting to run out of adjectives that can accurately describe how good Mackenzie Holmes has been this season. The senior forward is averaging 19.9 points per game and has scored 20+ in half of Indiana’s games. Her field goal percentage of 69.2 in second-best in the nation, trailing only Ohio State’s Taylor Thierry.
Holmes had 21 points, seven boards, and three assists in 29 minutes against Butler. Bulldog forward Sydney Jaynes also played well and managed to beat her a few times in the first quarter, but Holmes won the matchup for sure. My favorite moment from this game came when Holmes touched the ball for the first time.
A pass was thrown to Holmes in the post and as soon as the ball started making its way through space, two Bulldog defenders immediately left their marks and crashed down towards the paint. They got there about when the ball did but it didn’t matter. Holmes just turned and laid it in for Indiana’s first two points of the game, seeming unphased by the trio of blue shirts surrounding her. Butler’s gameplan was clearly to just “send everyone” right off the bat and it didn’t work. Lol!
It was fair to think that Holmes’ production would slow down in Grace Berger’s absence, but Chloe Moore-McNeil has been doing just fine as the main offensive distributor. Holmes was the benefactor of multiple CMM dimes this afternoon and their chemistry has been growing with each game.
In addition to her teammates dishes, Mackenzie Holmes is playing like an All-American because she’s fully healthy for the first time in nearly a year. A significant knee injury sidelined Holmes a season ago, keeping her off the court for over six weeks between January and February. She was able to return for the final portion of Indiana’s regular season schedule but didn’t seem 100%, always producing but never really taking over games like she had in the past. That’s no longer the case.
Through 12 games this season Holmes is averaging 27.5 minutes, 7.1 rebounds, and has been Indiana’s best player. She’s gone on a rebounding, blocking, and scoring tear in just about every game so far this season. “Mackenzie Holmes Legacy Game” soon come.
Three point shooting
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the biggest difference between this year’s team and the last few Moren squads is how versatile they are offensively. This team actually shoots threes, and they shoot them well. Indiana’s three point field goal percentage last year was just 33%, but this season they’re connecting on 38% of their tries from deep. That’s a big leap, and it means the Hoosiers are currently the second-most efficient Big Ten team when it comes to three point shooting.
Indiana was 7-20 (35%) from beyond the arc against Butler. Freshman Yarden Garzon, who leads the country in three point field goal percentage at 54.2%, led the team with three triples. Oregon transfer Sydney Parrish added two threes and sharpshooter Sara Scalia was also able to connect from three. Garzon, Parrish, and Scalia’s ability to stretch the defense has been so consequential because opponents can no longer opt to pack it in against Indiana. There’s more space in the paint for Mackenzie Holmes to operate with, and shooting fakes on the outside have led to easy drives and layups for all parties. It’s very fun to watch.
Oh yeah, this happened today too. Steph Curry ruined basketball!!!
The freshman class
The freshman have all had nice showings through the first 40% of the season. Yarden Garzon has been a gem all year obviously, but the frosh that’s highest on my radar right now is Lexus Bargesser.
Bargesser tied her career high in minutes today with 19. She scored eight points, grabbed six rebounds and added a steal. She also had a pair of assists, one of which occurred on IU’s best play of the day:
This team’s ability to dictate pace is what will make them dangerous come March. All the guards can push in transition if the opportunity presents itself, Bargesser included.
Prior to the season, coach Moren compared Bargesser to former IU guard and defensive menace Nicole Cardaño-Hillary, and I’m seeing the resemblance already. The Grass Lake, Mich., native’s speed and athleticism are especially striking. She’s quick enough to go step-for-step with most guards and strong enough to fight through screens. It usually takes new players longer to learn defensive systems than offensive ones, and I think that may be why we haven’t seen a ton of Bargesser yet. She’s going to be really good in due time, trust the process.
Fellow freshman Lilly Meister and Henna Sandvik have also shown improvement defensively as of late. Injuries to rotation players in Alyssa Geary, Grace Berger, and Kiandra Browne have provided more playing time than expected to these younger players, and given that Indiana is still undefeated, I’m going to say that they’re doing just fine. Moren and Co. have a legitimately deep bench on their hands, I am excited to see what the rotation looks like when everyone is healthy.
Indiana has a couple days off for the holidays, but will be back in action next on Thursday, 12/29 when they travel to Michigan State. Tipoff between the Hoosiers (12-0, 2-0 Big Ten) and Spartans (8-5, 0-2 Big Ten) is set for 3 p.m.