Indiana women’s basketball suffers first loss of the season at Michigan State

  • 12/29/2022 10:04 pm in

No one is safe in Big Ten basketball.

Mackenzie Holmes set a new career-high of 32 points Thursday afternoon, but when the final buzzer sounded it didn’t matter. No. 4 Indiana fell to unranked Michigan State in a 83-78 upset that no Hoosier will look back upon fondly.

“We’re going to get everybody’s best, our best just has to be better,” Teri Moren said postgame. “And today it just wasn’t.”

Indiana’s first loss of the season came in a way that was bound to happen eventually — the energy and production that was so prevalent in the first 12 games was missing. Holmes was the only Hoosier to be truly consistently productive throughout the game, and while Sydney Parrish, Chloe Moore-McNeil and Yarden Garzon all finished in double figures and had flashes of efficiency, it ultimately wasn’t enough.

In non-conference play, Indiana’s bench frequently made big contributions, able to come in to play solid minutes and score effectively. That wasn’t the case Thursday and became one of the sticking points that led to the loss.

Lexus Bargesser came in to score all four of Indiana’s bench points, and while Moren was pleased with her performance, the rest of the bench players left something to be desired.

“We gotta have more,” Moren said. “This is the league, and night in and night out, if you don’t show up ready to play, it’s going to be hard to win games.”

The Spartans’ defense was stifling throughout the game, as they employed full court presses and double-teamed multiple Hoosiers to force a total of 21 turnovers, for nine more than Indiana’s average of 12. In turn, Michigan State capitalized on those chances to yield 28 points off of turnovers alone.

The Hoosiers fought against Michigan State’s presses as best they could, but just weren’t equipped with the means to adapt and overcome. Sara Scalia was unable to meaningfully contribute, finishing with four points on 2-of-6 shooting with three failed attempts from beyond the arc.

“You’ve got to find other ways to score,” Moren said. “We need more out of Sara Scalia. There’s no doubt… right now, Sara needs to have confidence in shooting the ball.”

Ball security was ultimately the name of the game on Thursday, with the combination of Michigan State’s defense and Indiana’s sloppiness. Long, arcing passes provided ample opportunities for Spartan steals and mishandling of the ball by Hoosiers on both ends of the court kept them from getting comfortable.

“We made some passes cross-court when they were pressing us that we knew weren’t going to get through, which we worked on in practice so it was kind of disappointing to have that happen in a game,” Holmes said. “We’re all responsible for those mistakes down the stretch, but we were just a little undisciplined with the ball tonight.”

Thursday’s game was also one of the first where it felt like something — and someone — was missing for the Hoosiers. That someone, of course, would be Grace Berger. With the way Michigan State pressured Indiana’s offense, the absence of an experienced leader at the point guard position was clear.

Berger’s ability to control plays on the court and mid-range shot could have opened up new pathways to score inside the paint, not to mention posing a threat to the opposing defense.

“You know how well Grace takes care of the ball,” Moren said. “I think teams would maybe have a different perspective on trying to press us.”

Despite the uncharacteristic and disappointing loss, Moren and her team are focused on finding the bright spots and improving from Thursday’s performance. Moren pointed out that things like fouls and turnovers are fixable, and the loss was a good lesson for younger players still getting acclimated to Big Ten play.

Now, all sights are set to Sunday when Indiana hosts Nebraska in Bloomington. Both teams will be looking to bounce back after losses, with the Huskers losing to No. 14 Michigan 76-59 Wednesday night.

“We don’t have much time to feel sorry for ourselves — we don’t have any time at all, actually,” Holmes said. “We’re just going to get back in the gym, figure out what went wrong and clean that up and figure out how we can be better for when we hit the court against Nebraska.”

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