CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Indiana women’s basketball coach Teri Moren won her 190th game on Wednesday night, breaking a school record. The No. 6-ranked Hoosiers rolled No. 21 Illinois 83-72 despite a slow start, and at the end, they celebrated with her at mid-court.
And it was fun.
Moren, in her ninth year at Indiana, isn’t one to make a big deal about it, because she knows it’s just a milestone and she’ll want to add to it again on Monday at Michigan. But for her players, it was nice to share the moment with her. They even wore t-shirts to the postgame celebration that commemorated the event, with a picture of Moren with a crown on her head.
“When I was recruited here, I could see the vision that coach Moren had for this program,” senior forward Mackenzie Holmes said. “She’s one of the most competitive people I’ve ever met and she hates to lose way more than she likes to win, and that’s evident with her passion on and off the court with us. It’s really a special thing to be able to play for her when she gets this milestone.”
The Hoosiers are 17-1 now — tying the best start in school history, a 7-1 in the Big Ten. It was their 15th straight win over Illinois, and they were led by Holmes, who scored 30 points. Three others were in double figures as well in a good team win.
It didn’t look good early, though. Illinois got some easy looks and dashed out to a 19-10 lead. But the Hoosiers never panicked, and then just locked down defensively, allowing just 10 second-quarter points to get back in the game, leading 37-31 at the break.
“We were definitely frustrated in the beginning that we were giving up some easy looks,” Indiana guard Grace Berger said. “But that’s the thing about being a veteran team, we huddled together and said that we needed to make it harder on them.
“We all realized that we made things too easy and weren’t following the game plan. We just needed to settle down and make some stops, and we did.”
The third quarter was then all about Holmes. She got deep post position repeatedly and scored 14 third-quarter points as the Hoosiers stretched the lead to 16 points
”Mackenzie Holmes is really hard to guard,” Illinois coach Shauna Green. “We’re just not deep at the five position, and that was hard for us. It’s definitely a learning experience. They made more plays than us.”
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Holmes scored 30 points for the second time this year, and she’s been over 25 points six times now. She’s one of the best interior players in the country, and she certainly makes a huge difference with this team.
“My teammates do a great job of looking for me,” Holmes said. ”I didn’t even know I had 14 in the third quarter, and we were just taking what the defense was giving us.”
She also knows that she’s surrounded by a team full of shooters, and she’s a much better passer out of the post, too. It’s an Indiana offense that’s very dangerous.
Illinois did make it interesting late, taking advantage of three Indiana turnovers early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to seven with just under five minutes to go. But Holmes scored on a three-point play and guard Chloe Moore-McNeil did the same, posting up 5-foot-6 Illinois point guard Genesis Bryant for another three-point play. Illinois got no closer than eight in the final few minutes.
When these two teams opened the Big Ten season back in early December, it was something of a surprise to many that Indiana only won by four, 65-61. Now everyone knows better, because Illinois is a top-25 team now and a threat to stick around in the Big Ten race. Moren was glad to get out of Champaign with a win, especially with a loud crowd of 5,583 that she had never seen before
“I’ve been in this league nine years and I’ve never seen an atmosphere like that (at Illinois),” Moren said. “It’s a great win for us, for our program, and we’re happy to be getting out of here with a good solid win.”
The roughest three-game stretch of Indiana’s schedule continues on Monday when the Hoosiers take on No. 14 Michigan in Ann Arbor. After that, undefeated and No. 2-ranked Ohio State comes to Bloomington next Thursday. Both of those games will be televised on the Big Ten Network and will go a long way in determining a Big Ten champion.
“They’re a Final Four team, and they’re legit,” Illinois’ Green said. “They have every piece that you need. That Indiana team has been through a lot together, Mackenzie Holmes and Grace Berger especially.”
Berger, who had 18 points, missed the first Illinois game with a knee injury. This was her third game back, and her steadiness at the point makes this team so much better. Yarden Garzon added 13 and Moore-McNeil hadded 12. Sydney Parrish added eight.
“Its so good to have Grace Berger back,” Moren said. “She’s so in control out there. It’s great to see us play so well, and with Grace back, she makes everyone around her better. It’s so great to have her back on the floor with you. When she was out, we had to grind through a few games. I know there’s still a lot of season to play, but we’ve had a lot of good moments so far (against good teams).”
- GARZON TOP FRESHMAN AGAIN: Indiana women’s basketball freshman guard Yarden Garzon has been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the second time this season plus the USWBA Tamika Catchings National Freshman of the Week as the first Hoosier to get this honor. CLICK HERE