The Indiana women’s basketball team was unable to find the bottom of the net for the first two minutes and 42 seconds of its matchup against Illinois in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Monday, and that’s about the only negative thing you can say about Indiana’s performance.
Following their slow start, the Hoosiers were dominant, running their Big Ten opponent out of the gym in an 83-42 victory. Illinois’ 42 points were the lowest total for an Indiana opponent so far this season.
“We always talk about how we want to finish the game the right way,” said head coach Teri Moren, “I thought tonight…We finished the game the right way.”
While most would have been able to predict Indiana coming out on top, the absolute rout of a Big Ten opponent will put the conference on notice. Illinois was no slouch of an opponent either, coming into Bloomington with a 9-4 record.
In fact, Indiana and Illinois’ most recent meeting last season took an overtime period to decide. Indiana won that matchup in December 2018, 85-83. On Monday, IU left no question who the superior team was.
As it has often done this season, Indiana relied on its defense to carry the team to victory. Illinois’s leading scorers — Petra Holešinká (14.8 points per game) and Kennedi Myles (10.8 points per game) — were held to five and two points, respectively.
Illinois entered this matchup averaging 68.2 points per game, and left Assembly Hall with only 42, and even that doesn’t tell the entire story. Beginning the second half already down 43-19, the Illini did not even have to play against Indiana’s starters for much of the second half. This game also did not feature Indiana’s best defender, Bendu Yeaney.
Even so, the Hoosiers were able to force 19 turnovers and capitalize with 22 points off of them.
And even more impressive, Indiana’s defense may not have even been the most dominant part of the win.
Moren’s squad showed its dominance best on the glass, outrebounding Illinois 41-21. Also of note, 13 of the Hoosiers’ boards came on the offensive end.
In the first half alone, Indiana grabbed 25 boards and held its opponent to just 11. Aleksa Gulbe led the way on the glass, pulling down nine, with Mackenzie Holmes following close behind with eight.
Holmes also put up an impressive 16 points. Fresh off being named Big Ten Freshman of the Week last week, the Maine native has certainly put her name in the hat to be drawn for that honor again this week.
Her numbers could only be matched, unsurprisingly, by Ali Patberg, who again put in a performance fit for a preseason Naismith Trophy watch list member.
Patberg gave the Hoosiers 19 points and shot 4-4 from behind the arc and did so in just 21 minutes. For reference, Patberg has averaged 32.6 minutes per game this season.
So, what does this all mean for Indiana?
Aside from putting the entire Big Ten on notice by blowing out a conference opponent by 41 points, the Hoosiers showed their impressive depth. The starters did not play for much of the second half, and the bench players alone could have competed with the Fighting Illini, scoring 33 points themselves.
“I thought the bench was terrific when we went to them,” Moren said. “People say that when you go to your bench you lose something, but I thought tonight that was not the case.”
Even more importantly, Indiana now sits alone atop the Big Ten leaderboard. The only team left undefeated in conference play; they possibly have now established themselves as the front runners in the conference.
With their No.12 ranking, the Hoosiers are already the top-ranked team in the Big Ten, and their 13 wins are also the most in the conference. With the only other ranked teams, Maryland and Michigan, both sitting at 2-1, the Hoosiers have an early advantage on the other front runners early on in conference play.
Indiana will look to continue its undefeated run in the conference, and will next play host to Purdue at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 9. The game can be viewed on BTN+.