A 21-0 run by the Hoosiers in the middle of the game would ultimately decide Tuesday’s contest against the Norfolk State Spartans, as the now-No. 4 Hoosiers won decisively 72-42. Head coach Teri Moren said she was thankful the Hoosiers were able to pull away from a confident NSU team in that run.
“We needed something like that, just to go on a little bit of a run and feel good about ourselves offensively,” Moren said. “But the deal there is you want to build on your lead, and I didn’t feel like we did that. We still got stuck there, in the fourth especially, and I don’t think we manufactured anything easy offensively. It just seemed like everything was really difficult.”
Indiana had a season-high 22 turnovers Tuesday. Coming off an emotional win on Sunday against Kentucky, Moren said it’s not an excuse to come out flat and turn the ball over like they did Tuesday.
“We work every day inside of practice with ball security,” Moren said. “And it’s not like we go in with any intention to turn the ball over, I think it’s just something that you make sure you highlight. They know it, they know they did a poor job of taking care of the basketball. They know our goal is to be under 11 every game. And those are things we are going to have to fix.”
Both teams started off a little slow offensively. In the first few minutes, Indiana shot 33 percent and Norfolk State shot 20 percent. However, Mackenzie Holmes picked up right where she left off on Sunday, scoring the first four points for the Hoosiers. Indiana would need to figure out some other ways to score in order to pull away from the Spartans.
The lack of scoring eventually came back to hurt the Hoosiers in the first quarter, as Spartan guard Camille Downs scored a quick five points to force a Moren timeout. So what did Indiana do to respond? Got Holmes going again, as she scored two more buckets to put IU back up three. After four 3-pointers made in the first quarter from Norfolk State, Indiana hoped to slow the Spartans down from behind the arc. Holmes talked about the keys to having yet another 20-plus point performance Tuesday.
“Just my teammates were finding me,” Holmes said. “We knew we were going to be on a good side, and I just had to seal. I know all the guards had their heads up and were able to find me for some quick scores. So I think it was just continuing to post hard, and post early.”
Norfolk State’s defense forced Indiana to make some critical mistakes in the halfcourt, as Indiana committed eight turnovers throughout the first half. This allowed Norfolk State to get steals and score in transition, which hurt the Hoosiers early in the second quarter. With the Spartans going on a scoring drought early in the second, it was up to Indiana to respond and try to extend the lead.
And then, the Indiana offense came alive. With Holmes drawing so much attention after scoring 18 points in the first half, this opened up opportunities for Aleksa Gulbe and Nicole Cardaño-Hillary to get points on the board and extend the lead. With great free-throw shooting at the end of the half and more energy on defense, the Hoosiers went on a 17-0 run to end the first half, leading 39-21 over Norfolk State.
Gulbe caught fire to start the third, as she scored 10 of the first 14 second-half points for Indiana. Norfolk State eventually got back on track offensively for a bit, but Indiana was able to respond this time and keep the lead. Indiana’s interior defense was also outstanding in the third, minimizing the Spartans’ post threat in Tatiana Jones. Despite a slow first half, Gulbe thanked her teammates for getting her open looks to score 17 in the second half.
“At the end of the day I’m ready to do whatever,” Gulbe said. “And today there were moments where my teammates found me. So together they made this a double-double game.”
Rebounding Norfolk State’s misses is another reason that Indiana was able to pull away even more from the Spartans. Chloe Moore-McNeil did a great job of grabbing some long rebounds and passing it to Patberg in transition for easy points. The offense was a little dormant and the end of the third for Indiana, but nevertheless, the Hoosiers still led the Spartans by 21 points going into the final quarter of play.
It seemed like everything was falling in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, as the team went 5-for-8 during those minutes. Gulbe, Holmes, Ali Patberg and Grace Berger all pitched in to help open the margin of victory to 30 points. Patberg’s perimeter defense was also on point in the beginning of the fourth, getting a couple of steals to get the Hoosiers baskets in transition.
Even when the starters came off the floor and the benches were emptied, the Hoosiers didn’t miss a beat defensively. Kaitlin Peterson and Keyarah Berry did a great job out on the perimeter defending the NSU guards, and Moore-McNeil continued to rebound the ball well like she did earlier in the second quarter. After a slow start, the Hoosiers came alive and were able to defeat the Spartans 72-42. Moren said it was a gritty win.
“It was one of those games we just had to grind out, and we were able to do that,” Moren said. “[I’m] proud of our players for just staying the course, even though things got a little ugly. And sometimes you’re just going to have to grind it out and figure out ways to win, and I was obviously happy with that. But certainly there are things that we are going to continue to have to work on.”
Indiana moves to 3-0 on the season, as the team continues its non-conference quest. Indiana travels to Hamden, Connecticut to take on the Quinnipiac Bobcats this Saturday. The Bobcats are coming off a huge 29-point win against Central Connecticut, so Indiana will need to be ready to take on a confident team come Saturday afternoon.