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Hot start gives Indiana final win of 2020, stomping Illinois 79-56

A 23-9 run in the first quarter helped propel the Hoosiers to their third straight Big Ten victory as IU beat Illinois on Thursday, 79-56.

Grace Berger during last year's matchup with Minnnesota in Bloomington. (Ross Abdellah/HN)

Thanks to senior Ali Patberg, junior Grace Berger and sophomore Mackenzie Holmes, Indiana was able to jump on the Illini from the get-go and take some of their will away in the opening minutes. Redshirt junior Nicole Cardano-Hilary, who has been a spark off the bench off season, contributed to the run as well with two 3-point shots.

Defensively, IU had a solid day, holding Illinois to 33% from the field and forcing them into nine turnovers. The frontcourt duo of Holmes and junior Aleksa Gulbe led the charge on the defensive end, as Holmes recorded all three blocks for IU, and Gulbe totaled four steals. Despite holding Illinois to a poor day offensively, head coach Teri Moren would like to see some more consistency on defense throughout the season.

We were doing really good things offensively but then we would go down the floor and do something silly defensively,” Moren said. “It just seemed we could not put long enough stretches together where we were really good offensively and defensively. That was a little bit frustrating but again I think we were trying to work some kinks out after having some time off and getting back on the floor.”

The Illini tried to respond with a small run of their own, but the Indiana offense struck again, as the Hoosiers went on a 13-3 run to go up 22 points at the half. Illinois had no answer for Holmes, as she got 10 of her 18 points in the paint in the second quarter. Holmes led the team with 18 points, as she continues to be the main source for offensive production. 

It seemed like whenever the Illini found their groove offensively, the Hoosiers had a response to extend the lead. A huge reason for this was the way Indiana distributed the ball and found holes in the Illini defense from great passing. The Hoosiers had 16 more assists than Illinois, finishing with 19 total. Moren emphasized the importance of passing in breaking down a defense.

“I am excited about the 19 assists we had today on 29 made field goals,” Moren said. “I cannot reiterate enough how important that is to our basketball team and how much better I think we are when we share the ball.”

The depth of this Hoosiers team was once again put on full display, as the bench totaled 27 of the 79 points scored. Cardano-Hilary recorded a career-high 14 points to go along with a career-high 3-pointers made as a Hoosier with three. Indiana saw five other scorers from the bench who were very effective in getting to the line and getting easy points in order to extend the lead. 

Indiana shifts its attention to a top-20 matchup on the road against the Maryland Terrapins. These two squads were the projected top two in the Big Ten before the season started, and this highly anticipated matchup should live up to expectations. The Hoosiers feel good about ending the year with a win before shifting to a battle to begin the 2021 slate of the season.

“It is exciting to be back on the floor after a longer break than normal,” Moren said.”It is good to get back on the floor with these guys and start to ramp up here for what feels like it is going to be a normal Big Ten schedule.”

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