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Three Things: Indiana women’s basketball defeats Iowa, 87-78

we have ascended

Iowa v Indiana Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

#2 Indiana knocked off #5 Iowa 87-78 in Assembly Hall in what was a great, great game. The win ensures that Indiana controls their own destiny when it comes to the regular season Big Ten Title and adds another fantastic victory to what’s becoming a very crowded March resume.

Here’s three things:

The Hoosiers

Loyal Quarry readers will know that Grace Berger is my favorite basketball player, and tonight she went off for a season-high 26 points in addition to her 9 rebounds and 6 assists.

Berger was dominant, especially in the second half. She scored 19 points across the final two quarters and got to the rack at will:

Berger is so good at building up a head of steam and driving to the basket hard. Her strength and speed have always made her difficult to stick with, but tonight she seemed to kick it into overdrive. In her postgame presser, Indiana head coach Teri Moren alluded to the fact that Grace gets a certain look in her eye when she wants to take over and play fast— it was certainly there tonight.

As special as it was, Berger’s night isn’t possible without the work Mackenzie Holmes put in down low.

National Player of the Year candidate Mackenzie Holmes put up a casual 24 points and 6 rebounds off 10-17 shooting. Holmes has scored 20+ points in 10 of Indiana’s last 12 games and is for my money the best foul-drawing big in all the land. She only connected on four of her eight free throws tonight but at least two of those attempts came after baskets in which she made. The scorer’s table starts pressing buttons as soon as Holmes touches the ball in the paint. (Holmes also did some of the heaviest lifting on the defensive end, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)

Chloe Moore-McNeil and Sara Scalia deserve a ton of praise for their defense. CMM got the daunting Caitlin Clark matchup and did as well as she could. Clark finished with 35 points but never truly took over as she only scored on three-straight possessions one time. CMM’s ability to hold Clark in check made Teri Moren quite happy, as did two big steals recorded by Scalia during Indiana’s lead-grabbing run down the stretch. Indiana’s scoring defense continues to rank atop the league, and tonight they became the first Big Ten team to hold Iowa below 80 points this season.

The Hawkeye

Caitlin Clark this, Caitlin Clark that. You know the drill. She’s regarded as one of the best players in the country and it’s safe to say she left her mark on Assembly Hall tonight.

Clark finished the game with 35 points, 10 assists, and 4 rebounds. She drew multiple fouls in dramatic fashion and seemed to get away with a couple of her own. You would need at least a dozen college-ruled notebooks to transcribe everything Clark said to the officials tonight, I’d bet her monologuing skills are about as sharp as her basketball ones:

Clark missed a shot in the third quarter and got the loudest “AIRBALL!” chant I’ve ever heard at a women’s game. It was nuts. Worry not though, Iowa fans, because depending on who you ask, Clark was either six rebounds or two turnovers away from her tenth-career triple-double. That’s pretty neat!

All jokes aside, Clark is ridiculous. Tonight was the first time I’d ever watched her in-person and I feel she was as good as advertised. She hit a couple insane shots and had Assembly Hall collectively holding its breath each time she touched the ball on offense. She deserves every iota of respect opposing defenses give her.

Postgame, Clark some insightful things to say about Indiana’s program record crowd of 13,046 fans. Clark called the crowd great, but said she’s used to it because Iowa plays in front of a sellout crowd every night and that completely packed barns should be the expectation. She’s right. Clark may be a villain, but she knows what it’s all about and as fans of women’s sports we should be appreciative of that. Now back to the jokes.

This thing is Hawkeye and not Hawkeyes because Indiana absolutely erased Iowa’s other stud, Monika Czinano. Czinano is a textbook Hoosier killer. She recorded 30 points and 10 boards in Iowa’s Big Ten Championship Game victory over Indiana last season and had been on an absolute tear as of late, averaging 20 points per game during the eight-game win streak Iowa rode in on. Tonight she scored 6 points.

Nearly all the credit here goes to Mackenzie Holmes. Holmes was incredibly active defensively and even drew a couple of the five fouls Czinano had to her name when she walked off the court after being disqualified with 2:51 remaining. In Big Ten basketball, you play against the opposition and the refs, and Indiana won both matchups.

Let’s stop and take a look around for a second

Okay, it’s no secret this team is really freaking good. This program has become a special, special thing and everyone knows it because everyone has written a lovey dovey column about the significance of this season and the work coach Moren has done to put Indiana in this position. These columns are great, and certainly warranted, but I’m going to save mine for some other time. Right now, let’s just take a minute and really digest how sick this all is.

Indiana women’s basketball is the #2 team in the country. They’ve beaten another top-ten team in Assembly Hall four times this season and finally downed Iowa to avenge three devastating losses from a season ago. Mackenzie Holmes could be the Player of the Year, Grace Berger’s fifth-year has firmly cemented her as an all-time Indiana legend, and a future built around three more years of Yarden Garzon seems brighter than bright. Aren’t we lucky?

This team could win a title this season, and that’s a terrifying thought. It’s terrifying because it means it’s gonna hurt real bad if they don’t but that fear is what makes this all so fun, and this team is really fun. I’m fully bought in, and you should be too. Teams like this don’t come around often.

This has been, unquestionably, the most cathartic week of my life as a sports fan. Tonight especially. Great teams, great players, great game. Soak it in.