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Red-hot Hoosiers win eighth straight behind balanced scoring

With a great second half both offensively and defensively, Indiana was able to grab its eighth straight win, beating Iowa 89-80 Wednesday night. It was a game of runs and many lead changes, as the Hawkeyes had most of the control of the game in the first half until Indiana had a second-half comeback.

Grace Berger attempts a jumper against Iowa. Berger finished with 22 points in the win. (IU Athletics)

The big three of Ali Patberg, Mackenzie Holmes and Grace Berger each had 22 points. Holmes added 11 rebounds on top of her 22 points, and Berger added six rebounds to hers. The Hoosiers also had a distinct advantage on the boards, and quite frankly dominated them. To the team, rebounding has always been important to winning games.

“I think that’s something we’ve really been emphasizing in practice for a while now,” Holmes said. “We don’t go practice without doing some type of rebounding drill. solely on getting defensive boards, offensive boards, so it’s nice to see carry over into the game.”

Star players from both sides didn’t waste any time getting going. Holmes had four of the first six points for IU, as did Caitlin Clarke for the Hawkeyes. Nicole Cardano-Hillary did get in some foul trouble early, but Keyanna Warthen gave the Hoosiers some great minutes off the bench, scoring points in Cardano-Hillary’s absence. 

IU shot a very good 57% from the field in the first. Thanks to some great passing from Patberg and excellent movement off the ball from Holmes and Berger, Indiana was able to find ways to score against a solid Iowa defense. Defensively, IU was excellent to start things off once again. Holmes and Aleksa Gulbe did a great job of forcing Monica Czinano into some tough shots. 

But Czinano would come out of the second quarter with a big chip on her shoulder, scoring the first four points of the quarter. An 8-0 run from Iowa forced Teri Moren to call a timeout and get things fixed on both sides of the ball. Iowa would go up by as much as eight thanks to some great shooting, but Indiana would climb right back in it. 

Thanks to great ball movement, Patberg was able to set up Berger and Holmes for some easy buckets inside. However, on the defensive end, there was work to be done. Clarke was absolutely unstoppable, scoring 19 points in just the first half as the Hawkeyes were 5-for-8 from downtown. 

Nicole Cardano-Hillary during the game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Indiana Hoosiers at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, IN. (Xavier Daniels/Indiana Athletics)

Iowa once again came out firing with some buckets from Czinano, but Indiana stormed back again. Cardano-Hillary displayed some terrific perimeter defense which led to some opportunities on the offensive end for the Hoosiers. Berger took advantage of those opportunities, as she had six quick points in the opening minutes of the second half.

Cardano-Hillary continues to play her best basketball of the season, as she hit some big shots to allow Indiana to take the lead. Her on-ball defense was spectacular, holding Clarke to only four points in the third quarter and forcing her into a couple turnovers. The Hoosiers had their largest lead of the game at six heading into the final quarter of play. As Berger said postgame, all the credit goes to Cardano-Hillary for doing her best to guard Caitlin Clarke.

“That’s what Nicole brings to our team,” Berger said. “She’s just a tenacious defender, she’s willing to get up there and pressure full-court, and whatever we need. Obviously Caitlin Clarke [is] a really good player, she’s going to make tough shots. But I thought Nicole was able to slow her down a little bit and make everything tough for her, and that’s exactly what we needed.”

The Hoosiers went back to what’s been working the whole year offensively — getting the ball inside. Holmes absolutely took over in the fourth quarter, as she had six quick points in the first four minutes of the quarter. However, a couple big 3s from Clarke put the Hawkeyes right back into the game. 

But Clarke would later pick up a huge fifth foul on a Gulbe rebound and sat the rest of the game. Indiana hit some big free throws down the stretch to close out the game and win 89-80. For Moren, being down in the first half does not affect this team.

“I don’t know that this group gets really fazed,” Moren said. “Just understanding that they got the second half to right some of those wrongs that they made in the first. And that’s what I appreciate about them, I really do. I love the amount of composure that they’ve continued to play with, particularly in the second half when the ball games have been tight going down the stretch.”

The Hoosiers shift their attention to the regular-season finale against arch-rival Purdue on Senior Day this Saturday. Indiana dominated the Boilermakers at Mackey Arena earlier this season, so IU will need to bring the same energy from that game to this one on Saturday to close out the regular season on a high note. 

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