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‘We love playing with each other’: Frontcourt duo leads Indiana to win to start Big Ten play

Coming off a tough shooting night Thursday against Tennessee, Indiana bounced back offensively to beat Nebraska in its Big Ten opener, 81-45, behind big games from its two frontcourt starters.

Mackenzie Holmes. (Ross Abdellah/HN)

Junior Aleksa Gulbe and sophomore Mackenzie Holmes were key in this win, combining for 32 of the team’s 81 points. Gulbe also picked up a double-double on the evening, grabbing 12 boards to go along with her 18 points. Holmes seemed to be a key source of offense for the Hoosiers, as her teammates consistently found her in the post to score and eventually pull away from the Huskers.

Holmes’ success at the rim opened up opportunities for Gulbe to score and expand on IU’s lead in the second quarter, where the Hoosiers outscored Nebraska 25-10. The junior also had a couple nice defensive plays on the night, racking up two steals, one she took all the way for a layup at the other end for an and-one. The frontcourt duo proved Sunday they can be lethal for opposing teams, and when these two are on the same page, they are very hard to stop.

“I’ve got to admit that it’s pretty amazing after that first year playing together,” Gulbe said. “We’ve really gotten a feel for each other and we love playing with each other. I know where Mac is going to be, she knows where I’m going to be. I love playing with her.”

IU also got some scoring off the bench from the freshman duo of Kiandra Brown and Chloe Moore-McNeil. Browne proved to be a force inside Sunday, getting a double-double with 12 points and dominating the glass with 10 rebounds. Moore-McNeil dropped a solid seven points to go along with three rebounds. The freshmen are proving to add a lot of depth to the Hoosiers, and the team is starting to take notice.

“I was happy for Chloe,” head coach Teri Moren said. “She’s such a great outside shooter, so it was nice to see her finally hit a shot from behind the arc. And I think [Kiandra] is an exciting piece for us in so many ways. And just to watch her dive on that ball at half court, her energy, her toughness, and the thing I love about her is the way she talks.”

The Huskers tried to put in a zone at the beginning of the game to try and force Indiana to take some outside shots. But the Hoosiers were able to score some buckets by hitting mid-range shots and good passing to find open players underneath. 

The big second quarter for the Hoosiers is ultimately what put the game out of reach. The team continued to feed Holmes inside for easy buckets at the rim, and it seemed like Nebraska had no answer.

Along with the scoring display put on by Indiana, the defense really came to play for the Hoosiers, forcing Nebraska into 15 turnovers, capitalizing on the Huskers’ mistakes. The Hoosiers also held Nebraska to the lowest amount of points they’ve held an opponent to this year, as Nebraska only scored 45 points.

As Indiana had a sizable lead heading into the second half of play, the bench for the Hoosiers really came alive. Indiana had six different players off the bench score points, which is a promising sight for the depth of this team. 

Along with Browne and Moore-McNeil, redshirt junior Nicole Cardano-Hilary had a very complete game for the Hoosiers, recording five points along with a steal, assist and rebound, and looked like a player the Hoosiers can rely on in future games. Moren spoke highly on the George Mason transfer after the game. 

“Nicole is a high-volume shooter,” Moren said. “She was that at George Mason and we were just trying to give her some room. She obviously can shoot the ball from behind the arc with consistency but she’s also very aggressive. She’s still trying to get her feet wet in a real game and I thought today she’s off to a good start.”

The Hoosiers will have a couple days of preparation before heading to Minneapolis to take on a struggling Golden Gophers team. Indiana will look to take its confidence on offense into Williams Arena as the team aims for a 2-0 start in Big Ten play.

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