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'We take defense seriously': Indiana shuts down Purdue in commanding road win

Holding Purdue to an abysmal shooting performance, it is clear that the Indiana defense came to play, as the Hoosiers marched right into Mackey Arena on Thursday and dominated the Boilermakers 66-45.

IU held Purdue to shooting just 18-for-53 (34%) from the floor, and forced Purdue into 16 turnovers along with 10 combined steals and blocks. Indiana’s versatility was on full display here, showing IU can be a defensive team while also shooting 50% from the field. 

Offensively, Purdue just seemed to have no answer for Grace Berger, as she put up a phenomenal 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Berger was able to drive to the lane and either create plays for her teammates or score many times throughout the game. Head coach Teri Moren had some praise after the game for the junior. 

“I don’t know that anything Grace Berger does at this point any of us are shocked by,” Moren said. “She’s a fantastic player, but also has this drive and this want to be pushed and become even a better basketball player, and that’s what you appreciate about her.”

Mackenzie Holmes has been unstoppable lately, and scored 20 points against Purdue on Thursday. (Ross Abdellah/HN)

Mackenzie Holmes also continues to play like one of the best players in the Big Ten as of recently, recording 20 points on the night. She has now scored in double digits in each conference game, averaging nearly 19 points per contest in Big Ten play. Holmes’ ability to score with both hands stymied Purdue’s defense, as she had multiple moves to keep the Boilermaker forwards guessing.

The gameplan for Indiana was quite simple early on — get the ball inside. Holmes and Alexa Gulbe combined for six of the first eight points for the Hoosiers. Indiana also had 10 points in the paint compared to Purdue’s four. However, the Boilermakers would respond with what they’ve relied on all season — their ability from beyond the arc. Purdue had two big 3s to stay in the game and pace itself with Indiana. 

As good as it looked in the first quarter, IU’s perimeter defense looked a lot better in the second quarter. The Hoosier defense held the Boilermakers to just three points in the second quarter, thanks to turning over Purdue many times throughout the quarter. Berger, Ali Patberg, and Nicole Cardano-Hilary defended very well against the Purdue guards who are capable of making big plays.

Turning the Boilermakers over with good rotations and stealing some passes, Indiana was able to get some instant offense in transition. For the Hoosiers, trust in the gameplan was key to such a great defensive second quarter.

“I think our coaches do a great job scouting every opponent,” Berger said. “We have some of Purdue’s playcalls and we know their tendencies. They have players that have been around a couple of years, so myself, Ali, Mackenzie and Aleksa know what to expect from them. We take defense seriously and defense wins championships, so that was our mindset coming in tonight.”

On offense, Indiana was able to get some more scoring toward the end of the second. Berger had her fingerprints all over the 14-0 run the Hoosiers went on, as she was not able to just carve through Purdue’s defense, but create plays for her teammates as well. She was near her average of six assists just in the first half, dishing out five assists in the first 20 minutes. 

The passing of Indiana was a huge reason the Hoosiers were able to jump out to a 20-point lead in the third quarter. Berger continued to facilitate very well and her teammates Gulbe along with Kiandra Brown picked apart the Purdue defense.

Defensively, Indiana didn’t show any regression from the first half. The Hoosiers made Purdue’s star player Kayana Traylor really struggle, as she was just 3-for-13 from the field at the end of the third quarter. 

Being able to execute plays was a big reason Indiana had offensive success in the fourth quarter. Berger got some wide-open shots to go and the Hoosiers were able to move the ball around very well. Purdue began to heat up with some 3s to cut the lead a little bit, but it would be just too late, as Indiana took the win 66-45.

Indiana’s game with Rutgers that was slated for Monday has been postponed due to COVID issues in the Scarlet Knight program. So the Hoosiers’ next task will be to travel up to East Lansing to take on Michigan State. The Spartans just dropped out of the top 25 in the most recent AP Poll rankings, so they are certainly a quality team and Indiana must be ready some of their best basketball of the season come next Thursday.

The team looks forward to the challenge of a much more difficult schedule in the next couple of weeks, Berger said.

“Hopefully we will be able to duplicate [our performance], that’s always the goal,” Berger said. “The Big Ten is the deepest conference in the country, we have four or five top-25 teams. So we know when we start to play top-25 teams, every night is going to be a grind. When we do have those 20-point blowout wins, we need to still learn, get better, and not take our foot off the pedal.”

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