Indiana women’s basketball squeaked out a 65-61 victory over Illinois yesterday at Assembly Hall. The win brought the Hoosiers’ record to 1-0 in Big Ten competition, and 9-0 overall. It also helped IU improve their AP ranking, moving up a spot from fifth to fourth in the country:
Tied for the highest AP ranking in school history! pic.twitter.com/ZpWPDtVqDt— Indiana Women’s Basketball (@IndianaWBB) December 5, 2022
A win is a win, but this one was weird. Here’s three things:
Indiana started the game off shooting well, as they have been all season long. They were 9-14 (64%) from the field and 3-4 (75%) from three in the first quarter, but getting shots to fall after the first ten minutes proved to be a struggle.
The Hoosiers connected on just 38.5% of attempted shots in the second quarter, 26.3% in the third, and 43.8% in the fourth. Three of their least efficient quarters of the year each fall well below their season average of 51%, which is second-best in all the B1G.
It was frustrating to see Indiana uncharacteristically miss multiple “gimme” layups and open looks from three (they were 5-17), but we can’t be too critical. Shooting comes in waves, the Hoosiers are not going to hit 10+ threes every single night and that’s alright. Another couple funky games and there’s probably a conversation to be had about finding ways to score without Grace Berger, but for now we’re calling it a sample well within the expected statistical range. They’re going to be just fine.
Speaking of shooting though, shoutout to Illini guard Makira Cook. Cook scored a career-high 33 points on 12-25 shooting and was the best player on the floor. Her ability to get a bucket in any way possible kept Illinois in this game.
Illinois outrebounded Indiana 43-36. The Hoosiers lost the board battle for just the second time this season, and injuries are largely to blame.
Indiana was without forwards Alyssa Geary and Kiandra Browne, leaving Mackenzie Holmes and Lilly Meister as the only available rotation bigs. Holmes and Meister combined for seven boards, which pales in comparison to the 25 Illinois’ starting forwards grabbed. Fortunately for Indiana, Sydney Parrish was there to pick up the slack and then some.
The Oregon transfer finished with a double double and snagged 10 boards, none bigger than the one that iced the game:
Parrish has been a rebounding machine all season. Did you know that she trails Mackenzie Holmes for the team lead by just three rebounds? The junior guard has a nose for the ball, there’s no other way to put it. Parrish’s 20 steals are third-most in the conference (she had four against Illinois alone).
Minnesota transfer Sara Scalia played well off the boards too. She set (Indiana) career-highs in rebounds and assists with six of each. It has been fun to watch Scalia grow as a passer as the personnel she’s playing with changes.
Quick update on those injuries: Alyssa Geary suffered an ankle injury during practice on Saturday and is not expected to be out for too long. Kiandra Browne has yet to play this season due to a thumb injury; the timetable for her return will be re-evaluated in about a month.
Vintage Mackenzie Holmes conference game. The senior forward recorded 23 points, six rebounds, and four blocks in 35 minutes. Holmes also scored the winning layup with 37 seconds remaining:
#54’s fourth quarter was huge for Indiana fans because it provided an answer to the question many have been stressing over in recent days: With no Grace Berger, who do you go to when you need a bucket? The answer is Holmes.
We also liked what we saw from her as a shooter. Holmes hit a couple of nice midrange jumpers against the Illini and seems to be in the midst of adding another layer to her game. She’s currently second in the nation in field goal percentage (73.4%), and should be high on the watchlist of every All American voter out there. She’s just so good.
Up next for Indiana is a trip to Happy Valley. The Hoosiers will play their first road game of the conference slate at Penn State on Thursday, 12/8. Tip is set for 7 p.m.