IU women survive Michigan State battle as Holmes inches towards scoring record


BLOOMINGTON— It was late in the third quarter when Yarden Garzon darted to the left corner of the court in front of the Indiana University bench.

“Coach was behind me,” Garzon said. “She said, ‘Shoot it.’”

Probably pretty loudly given the noise being made by Assembly Hall fans.

Garzon listened to instructions, put down a 3-point shot and for the first time since the early going against Michigan State the Hoosiers were tied. That big-play shot in the Big Ten Conference contest led to a satisfying, 94-91 victory that averted a team crisis while raising the season’s record to 19-3.

Instead of losing a second game in a row, nationally 14th-ranked IU recorded a gritty, hard-fought, challenging, wild, suspenseful triumph.

“Well, if you didn’t enjoy that, you’re not a basketball fan,” said Indiana coach Teri Moren.

This game, following a road loss at Ohio State in which the Hoosiers committed 23 turnovers, protected IU’s self-image, its standing in the league, and required serious resilience while rating four stars on the entertainment scale.

“I’m just proud,” said center Mackenzie Holmes, who scored 28 points, of her first reaction when the buzzer sounded.

After trailing 53-43 at halftime, at times playing porous defense and showing they still miss starter Sydney Parrish, out for her fifth straight game with a foot injury, the players had a heart-to-heart chat at the intermission.

“We’ve got to get stops,” Moren said. “That’s what we were telling them. We knew we needed to be so much better defensively.”

The first quarter was almost a shoot-around, with the 17-6 Spartans making 71.4 percent of their shots and IU hitting 70 percent. But Michigan State, which made 12 three-pointers, could not be headed until the final minutes of the third quarter.

Then Garzon (20 points) heated up, wrapped around a clutch three-pointer from seldom-used Hennah Sandvik, who played less than four minutes, but who set the stage for Garzon’s big-time three and that 66-66 tie.

“That was awesome,” Holmes said of the Sandvik bucket and added that Garzon’s late shooting was “huge for us.”

Still, the Spartans, who had five players in double figures, led by Julia Ayrolt’s 25 points, did not wilt. The game was tied at 74, 84 and 86 and the score was within two points after a basket or free throws 10 other times in the fourth quarter.

Indiana eroded the first-half deficit by constantly feeding the 6-foot-3 Holmes in the low post. She adopted her usual mode, spinning to the left or spinning to the right for layups to leave one-on-one defenders helpless.

Not much-talked-about in terms of league contention, the Spartans had won four games in a row prior to this one.

“They were hitting just shot after shot,” Holmes said. “That was a really good basketball team.”

Indiana mounted its comeback not only relying on Holmes and Garzon, but with guard Sara Scalia making five three-pointers and all of her free throws for 21 points, guard Lexus Bargesser scoring 10 points early while filling in for Parrish, and guard Chloe Moore-McNeil acting as the glue on both sides of the ball.

In the final seconds, as IU was clinching the win, Moore-McNeil’s game statistics clicked upwards and with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists she recorded just the fourth triple-double in school history. The other three belong to Grace Berger, now with the Indiana Fever in the WNBA.

Holmes was watching the stat board as the buzzer sounded and gave Moore-McNeil a big hug. Moore-McNeil, who played most of the fourth quarter with four fouls, was completely unaware. “She said, ‘What? What? What?’” Holmes said.

Moren abhors turnovers about as much as she would if served rat poison as an appetizer and she preferred digesting this game’s 10 turnovers instead of those 23 incurred in the five-point loss to currently No. 5 Ohio State.

“I still do think we are so much better than that,” Moren said. “That’s what you get when you fail – experience.”

A few hours before pro football people engage in that big game of theirs called the Super Bowl, IU plays again Sunday, this time against in-state rival Purdue.

Not only can the Hoosiers win their 20th game of the season for the ninth time in 10 years under Moren’s guidance, but Holmes is in line to become the program’s all-time leading scorer.

By adding 17 points, Holmes would surpass Tyra Buss’ list-leading 2,364 career points. Holmes has downplayed this pursuit by deflecting most talk to team accomplishments, but did say, “Obviously, it’s a blessing to be in this position.”

She put herself there and with merely an average game Holmes will go to the front of the line.

No posts to display