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Indiana women’s basketball beats Michigan State 94-91: Three observations

holy moly

Syndication: The Herald-Times Rich Janzaruk/Herald Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

No. 14 Indiana women’s basketball used a huge second half to erase a ten-point halftime deficit and defeat Michigan State 94-91 earlier tonight in Assembly Hall.

The win, which came in an extremely entertaining game, boosts Indiana’s record to 19-3 overall and 10-2 in the Big Ten.

Here’s three things:

Chloe Moore-McNeil

A career-defining game for the senior guard. Moore-McNeil did absolutely everything for Indiana tonight and finished with her first collegiate triple-double off 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists.

As we saw in tight wins over Purdue and Maryland, Moore-McNeil has grown as a vocal leader and played with an edge tonight.

The play of the game goes in the books as a Yarden Garzon jumper with 20 seconds left but it was Moore-McNeil who got Indiana over the timeline and in to their set after a miss on the other end.

I don’t know exactly what was said but the way she directed her fellow guards into place was seriously, seriously impressive.

Speaking of, Sara Scalia (21 pts, 5-9 3PT) and Lexus Bargesser (10pts, 6a) absolutely did their parts and deserve praise too. Indiana is ultimately a scheme-based team, but when all the cogs are turning, hoo boy....

Defending the 3

This game will be remembered as a huge triumph for Indiana (and deservedly so, more on that in a minute), but the Hoosiers still gave up 90+ points for the second time this year.

Michigan State built its 53-43 halftime lead by shooting 7-10 from deep in the first two quarters. The Spartans don’t always play a traditional post and took advantage of Mackenzie Holmes covering versatile guard Julia Ayrault.

Ayrault (25 pts, 5-6 3PT) connected on her first four attempts from deep and slowly pulled Holmes away from the paint. Her range created more space for the ever-dangerous DeeDee Hagemann (19 pts, 10a) to operate and give Indiana trouble for a third straight matchup.

Michigan State is a very good team and exceeding expectations in Robyn Fralick’s first year as head coach, but giving up 12 makes on 18 3-point attempts is concerning. Running into Sparty or Penn State in the conference tournament will not end well if the Hoosiers don’t shore up the perimeter D.

Rectifying some wrongs

The Ohio State loss on Sunday seemed to expose the few limitations we’ve picked up on Indiana having over the last two seasons. These Hoosiers have had a tough time winning close games and beating very athletic teams. They did both of those things tonight.

Let’s start with the athleticism. This MSU team is pesky. They handed Indiana its first loss in 2022-23 and nearly upset the Hoosiers in the conference tourney last year thanks to Hagemann, an incredibly fun watch, and her backcourt partner Moira Joiner.

Sparty wanted to make it a track meet and Indiana kept pace thanks to double digit performances from all five starters. Mackenzie Holmes (28 pts, 11-15 FG) and Yarden Garzon (20 pts, 11 in 4th) were locked in down the stretch and went a combined eight for nine in the fourth.

Holmes, Moore-McNeil, and Garzon all started last year’s season-ending NCAA Tournament to Miami and seemed extra motivated because that memory is still fresh all these months later.

Tonight’s win was Indiana’s first one-score victory since the 2022 NCAA Tournament against Princeton. Tough one-score losses at Iowa and against the Hurricanes last year, not to mention another close one in Columbus four days ago, made it really seem as though IU could not finish down the stretch.

That’s why tonight’s win is such a big deal. The Hoosiers’ late-game execution was nearly flawless and proved that they can close out.

It’s a testament to how much this team, especially its leadership, believes in itself. With the “can’t win a close game” narrative absolved, I expect everyone in Bloomington to be a little more loose moving forward.