Assembly Hall erupted as Mackenzie Holmes powered through the Northwestern defense to keep Indiana alive. She converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to give Indiana a 69-65 point lead with 2:05 left in overtime.
From that point, Indiana would go on to commit three costly turnovers in the final two minutes of overtime. Grace Berger tried to enter the ball to Holmes on the final possession, but Holmes was never open and a bad pass allowed Northwestern to evade the Indiana defense and run out the final seconds of the game, winning 71-69.
“We’ve got to look at ourselves and accept this and hopefully learn from it,” head coach Teri Moren said. “I thought we learned some lessons from the Iowa game, but we still have a lot of work to do in learning hard, hard, hard lessons. I am just really disappointed.”
The final two minutes were representative of the sloppiness with which Indiana played, and showed exactly why Indiana didn’t deserve to share first place in the Big Ten after Thursday.
Northwestern’s leading scorer Lindsey Pulliam shot 5-for-22 from the field. The Hoosiers did a nice job of forcing Pulliam into taking tough shots and not letting her get into a rhythm. Northwestern starting center Abbie Wolf fouled out with two minutes left in the fourth quarter, and after her defensive presence was gone, Holmes took immediate advantage on the block.
Neutralizing two of the opponent’s best players results in a win in most cases — but not when you turn the ball over 21 times, 13 of them coming in the second half. For Moren, a loss like this highlights her recent frustrations with the team, starting with overall decision-making.
“It feels like we’re having to hand-feed them a lot of information,” Moren said. “Our hope is that they can just have more intelligence, be smarter in the decisions they make, be more focused, be better at executing.”
While Holmes’ and-one looked like it could save Indiana’s night, Moren said this game should have never even gone into overtime, much like the Hoosiers’ double-overtime loss to Iowa just four days ago. Holmes finished the game with 22 points and seven rebounds, tying her career high in points, but it wouldn’t matter in the end.
“I would trade any stat that I have for a win,” Holmes said.
Indiana was outscored 21-11 in the fourth quarter and found itself in a 11-2 deficit halfway through the first quarter. Beginning a game like that and finishing the way Indiana did won’t result in many wins going forward, and exposed some of Indiana’s biggest weaknesses. The most obvious weakness that was at the forefront of tonight’s loss was simply executing plays.
Indiana had a chance to win the game on the final possession in regulation, but a broken play led to a contested mid-range jump shot from Berger. In overtime down by two, the Hoosiers didn’t even get a shot off. These two plays came after Indiana sat down during a timeout to draw up a play. Whether it was poor coaching or a lack of player execution, this has become a theme that has led to the two-game losing streak Indiana is on.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) January 17, 2020
Squandering an eight-point lead with 5:54 left in the fourth quarter represented a wasted chance that Indiana had to control its own destiny in the Big Ten moving forward. Northwestern, Rutgers and Iowa now share the top spot in the Big Ten, and moving forward, Indiana does not have any of those teams left on its schedule.
Indiana grinded out a road win at Rutgers on New Year’s Eve, but followed it up with two heartbreaking, overtime losses at Iowa and versus Northwestern. Because of this, Indiana now has to hope that the aforementioned teams slip up versus lesser opponents because the Hoosiers will not have a shot at revenge.
Indiana now has a quick turnaround and only three days to prepare for a road matchup at Maryland, who is tied with Indiana for second place in the Big Ten. In order to make sure another collapse doesn’t happen versus Maryland, Moren said the team will have some tough film sessions and need to translate what is learned in practice to the game.
“Everything we did inside the game tonight, we have practiced,” Moren said. “It is a head-scratcher when the things we have practiced don’t look like they are supposed to look like.”