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01/31/2022

Battling for first place in Big Ten, Indiana falls to Michigan in first conference loss of season

Rarely can anyone wake up from a 15-day coma and resume life the way it was. Even more so, to a life that’s better than before.

Alas, No. 5 Indiana fell victim to its two-week midseason pause, only to be upset by No. 6 Michigan tonight on blue and maize hardwood. Giving up their No. 1 spot in the conference, the Hoosiers’ nine-game win streak came to halt with a final score of 65-50, moving to 9-1 in Big Ten play. 

In addition to Indiana having its past three games postponed due to COVID-19 protocols, the Hoosiers were once again without Mackenzie Holmes due to injury. Head coach Teri Moren isn’t here to make excuses for the loss, but acknowledged that Monday was an off night for them. 

“Looked, really I thought…rusty,” Moren said. “We had no real rhythm, no fluidity in anything we did offensively.”

After the longest break Moren has ever experienced in her career and with their All-American benched, Indiana was forced to play a four-guard lineup, making it very difficult to put pressure on the Wolverine defense. 

Another wrinkle that got in the way of a 10th straight win was Michigan’s Naz Hillmon. Unlike most post players, Hillmon doesn't need her eyes to spot the perfect pick-n-roll. She has an insane nose for the ball and a great feel for where her defenders are, and without that normal set of post players, Indiana attempting to double-team Hillmon was just a lost cause.

“They came out and punched us pretty good…in the mouth,” Moren said.

In regard to getting Hillmon in foul trouble and disrupting her play, Moren thought that her team had done a better job of forcing her into coercion in previous years. 

“We’ve done a pretty good job on her (Hillmon),” Moren said. “Matter of fact, I think we would probably tell you that we’ve done the best job on her in the past.” 

The Holmeses and Hillmons of the world will persist, but they weren’t Indiana’s only problems Monday.

The Hoosiers were only two points behind Michigan going into the third, and even started the second with a 10-0 run. Guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary played phenomenally — setting the tone defensively with 16 points, eight steals, five rebounds, and two assists — but she can’t be the only one putting effective pressure on.

Shooting 33 percent from the field and 21 percent from the 3-point line is just unacceptable for a team as seasoned as Indiana. The field goal percentage seen from guard Ali Patberg on Monday was not something expected from a seventh year senior. 

“Ali, and I said this to her because I can, Ali has to be so much better for us,” Moren said. “She can’t go 4-for-13, not with the amount of time she spends in the gym.” 

The Hoosiers did try out some different looks and had some success — playing zone in hopes to circumvent foul trouble, consistent dominance inside the paint, turning 25 Michigan turnovers into 21 points — but the third quarter was really where the game was lost. 

When playing people out of position, Indiana’s margin of error has been slimmer as of late. Indiana’s coaching staff took a big risk in the third with forward Kiandra Browne, still choosing to put her in with four fouls on her back. 

“In order for us to stay in the game, we had to do something different,” Moren said. “You’re rolling the dice…sometimes you take those chances and they work out, and sometimes they don’t.” 

Without focusing too much on the woulda, coulda, shoulda, the Hoosiers only plan to dwell on this loss for the next 24 hours. While these up and down moments cannot be afforded right now, Moren is confident that her team will grow immensely from this loss and come back stronger for Thursday night's matchup against Minnesota at home. 

“Come tomorrow, the sun’s going to come up,” Moren said. “I know my group better than anyone, we’ll bounce back.”


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