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Dominant fourth quarter fuels ranked road victory for Indiana over Northwestern

Grace Berger. (Ross Abdellah/HN)

No. 16 Indiana outscored No. 21 Northwestern 26-7 in the fourth quarter Sunday to complete a 74-61 comeback victory for the Hoosiers. This win marks the first ranked win of the season for IU, and truly a win that will provide confidence entering the second half of the season.

Mackenzie Holmes was once again a star, tacking on a double double with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Grace Berger played very well for the IU backcourt as well, putting up an efficient 14 points, six rebounds and four assists. Indiana got one of its best perimeter players back in Jaelynn Penn, who had some big shots in the game.

Penn made a 3-pointer late in the third quarter to help start IU’s comeback, and said it felt good to make a shot in her first game back from an ankle injury.

“When that 3 went down it was really good,” Penn said. “Obviously it boosted my confidence, but [it helped] get some reps because I only practiced two days before we played, so it was big for me to get in my rhythm and find rhythm on the defensive side as well.”

Early on, both teams were back and forth in scoring. It was clear that both teams were not trying to rely on the 3-point shot early on. The Hoosiers tried to get Holmes involved early on, but the Wildcat double-team created a couple turnovers off of that strategy. Northwestern shot a very good 50% out of the gate, and Indiana found itself down five points at the end of the opening quarter. 

Indiana’s offense was stifled early on against the Wildcat defense, one of the better defenses in the country. The Hoosiers had seven turnovers in the first half alone, and Northwestern capitalized with 13 points off turnovers. Holmes began to find her groove later in the second quarter, as she scored about a third of Indiana’s first-half points with 10.

Foul trouble really plagued the Hoosiers in the first half, as Ali Patberg, Kiandra Brown and Aleksa Gulbe all combined for seven fouls. With Patberg out of the game, this opened room for Nicole Cardano-Hilary to step up in her place and get a couple big buckets. Indiana grabbed its first lead for a moment, but the quick Northwestern guards were able to get into the paint and take a three-point lead at the half.

Indiana had no answer for Northwestern’s lockdown defense to open the third quarter. Combine that with a 10-0 run from the Wildcats in the opening five minutes, and the Hoosiers found themselves down double digits. The physicality of Northwestern’s defense forced Indiana into some bad shots, and the Hoosier offense seemed stagnant.

Head coach Teri Moren said the team was guilty of letting emotions get to them during that Northwestern run.

“I think we were all guilty of being a little emotional, and especially in the first half,” Moren said. “This is a group that desperately wants to win so bad. So I think we allowed our emotions to get the best of us. And I thought there was a difference in the second half of being more patient and we weren’t pressing as much.

But as the third quarter progressed, Indiana started hitting shots and cut the lead. Penn and Berger were able to take the bulk of the offense and begin to find holes in the Northwestern defense.

That momentum at the end of the third carried into the beginning of the fourth, as IU went on an 11-3 run to begin the final quarter of play. Indiana continued to feed the ball to Holmes inside, which opened up shots for Penn and Berger because Northwestern continued to double Holmes inside. A healthy 7-for-11 from the field would help lead the Hoosiers to a massive victory over the Wildcats.

Indiana now travels back home to Bloomington for a showdown with Michigan State. With COVID-19 issues in the program, next Sunday will mark the end of a three-week hiatus for the Spartans. So it will be imperative the Hoosiers come out strong next week.

For the Hoosiers, although this is a big win, the Big Ten is a gauntlet and every game will be a challenge.

“From top to bottom this league is really good,” Moren said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing in the Big Ten, you better be ready.”

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