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Indiana enters West Lafayette down two key players, comes back in final minutes to extend Big Ten win streak

With a lively and packed Mackey Arena and a possible upset being written from the start, fans sat down on Sunday afternoon and watched a back and forth battle of in-state rivals. No. 6 Indiana came out on top to take the first matchup of the year against Purdue in overtime with a final score of 73-68. 

For the second game in a row, Indiana had its back put up against the wall without a single minute of basketball being played. About 50 minutes before tip off, it was announced that the Hoosiers would be without star guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary due to being placed in health and safety protocol. This is the second game in a row that it has been announced moments before tip-off that they would be down a player with a similar situation happening back against Nebraska on Jan 13. with Mackenzie Holmes.

Cardaño-Hillary is the third player this week to have been taken out of the Indiana lineup as the Hoosiers lost Holmes on Jan. 13 to a knee injury and Keyarah Berry leaving the team permanently for undisclosed reasons on Jan. 12. 

It wasn't the cleanest or prettiest game from the start for the 6th-ranked Indiana team. Both in the first quarter and in the second, there was no clear direction of how to get the offense started, with IU shooting only 35 percent from the field in the first half. Not having a way to create space and the Hoosiers losing their primary ball handler played an obvious role in them being outscored in the first and second quarter. 

“I thought it was a game where we got off to a slow start and struggled a little bit offensively,” IU head coach Teri Moren said.

Purdue scored just nine points in the third quarter, which set up the story for it to all unfold in the fourth quarter. Grace Berger helped get the team back into the game by scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter. Berger and Gulbe pushed the offense as they looked for the chance to lead this Indiana team to a win. Berger finished as the top scorer for the team with 24 points as well as six assists and six rebounds. 

The final quarter came down to several big moments for Indiana. The Hoosiers were down four with just 25 seconds left in the game. Guard Ali Patberg took a 3 as the clock was winding down under 20 seconds and brought the game within one. Then guard Grace Waggoner caused a turnover from the inbound to get the ball back for a chance to take the lead. Berger drove near the free-throw line, spun and got the shot to fall to take the one-point lead. Purdue guard Abby Ellis made one of two free throws to send the game to overtime, and Indiana secured the win in overtime.

The close battle between the two teams showed how much Indiana had to come back and fight for this win as the team hoped to add another win to its column. 

“As I always say to them, as long as there is time on the clock for us we are always gonna be in the game. I have a group of people in that locker room that will just not quit,” Moren said. 

Without the offense produced by Holmes and Cardaño-Hillary, Moren said she realized the way that she and her team have to prepare themselves for future competition. 

“Obviously Mac (Mackenzie) is a big loss. We didn't realize till Friday that Nikki (Nicole) wouldn't be available so once again we're scrambling trying to make adjustments. Thursday night against Nebraska was an adjustment without Mac and then today again another big adjustment without Nikki so give our kids credit,” Moren said.

With the Hoosiers now down another player for an unknown time, the question has become more prevalent than ever: How will the Hoosiers’ depth compete with their schedule for the upcoming weeks? The lack of defensive presence from Holmes and the loss of ball handling from Cardaño-Hillary has caused Indiana trouble in their last two games. The win over Purdue was another close game for the Hoosiers making this the second game with intense moments to conference opponents. With many new questions about this team the Hoosiers look to stay undefeated in conference play as they face off against Michigan State on Wednesday in Bloomington.

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