I guess it's true when they say in Indiana basketball is religion. Indiana was set for its most anticipated game of the year and the Hoosiers continued to put the country on notice. The atmosphere, an unknown freshman and veteran leadership all complied for another historic night at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers sounded off against Ohio State 78-65 and now sit on top of the Big Ten.
The buzz around campus was prevalent and something felt different about this game — different in a good way. The hype around Indiana has been the highest it's probably ever been in the program's history and it all seemed to come down to this. All the work that has gone into Indiana women's basketball over the years was put on display against the Buckeyes.
One of the biggest games of the year set the stage for an unforgettable atmosphere. Ohio State would run down the court and the noise began to roar from the walls but when the Hoosiers touched the basketball, the stadium went quiet so their team could go to work. Over the years, women's sports have continued to grow but a night like this shows how Indiana is setting the standard for its team.
Ten thousand, four hundred and fifty-five was the number in attendance and it was a record breaker for Indiana. It was everything fans made it out to be. A blackout theme infused the student section alongside the rest of Assembly Hall. Many knew it was going to be a great show but even a few people were taken by surprise.
“First of all, just a big thank you to our crowd tonight,” Indiana head coach Teri Moren said. “They ended up showing up. Hoosier nation showed up for us in a big kind of way tonight. We’re so grateful that the energy that was in the building was incredible. …We were curious with an 8:30 game what the crowd was gonna look like. Trust me, they exceeded my expectations.”
With a crowd unlike any other, there was no one in the country that could beat Indiana on Thursday night. Yarden Garzon continued her historic freshman season with 20 points which included a handful of 3s that lit up the arena.
Mackenzie Holmes did what she usually does with 26 points and more importantly guided her team when the Hoosiers struggled in the opening minutes. As Moren would put it, the maturity of this team is what shined on a night like this. Even on a night when she didn’t play her best, Grace Berger performed when it mattered most late in the fourth quarter.
Holmes and Berger have been the backbone of this Indiana team for a few years now and their experienced leadership was one of the few ways Indiana won this game.
“That's the maturity of this group, I keep talking about it, but there's a maturity level for this group,” Moren said. “In those types of games when it's tight, they understand flow, rhythm, they understand what's needed in a lot of those moments. Give our guys credit for their cool, calm, demeanor tonight.”
It was sort of meant to be for Indiana. On a night like this, I don’t think any team across the country comes into Assembly Hall and walks away with a win. This game created noise around town unlike any other and you could sense it in the air. Indiana is building a special season that only comes around every once in a while.
The conversation about this team's ceiling has been roaming around for quite some time but now the talks about a national championship aren’t too far off the table. This team is special but even with all the supportive outside noise, the Hoosiers know they still have a long way to go.
“We take one game at a time,” Moren said. “As we talk about with our group, there's not one game that's bigger than the other. They're all big. If you're chasing something the way we're chasing something you can't overlook and you can't make the moment bigger than what it is.”