Mackenzie Holmes and Chloe Moore-McNeil show different kinds of leadership in win against Illinois

  • 01/01/2024 12:29 pm in

One player doesn’t hesitate to show her emotions, yelling after big blocks and buckets. She’s vocal, consistently talking in huddles and directing her teammates throughout the game. Even on the bench, she often calls out to the players on the court, an extra coach on the sidelines.

Another player rarely shows emotion, keeping a straight face as she makes 3-pointers and stands strong defensively. She’s not one to yell or even talk as much as some of her teammates; instead, she adopts a quiet leadership style.

But both players have the skill, experience and seniority that guarantees that when they speak, everyone listens. When they have the ball, everyone knows something exciting is bound to happen. And when they play at their best, they’re going to win.

Mackenzie Holmes and Chloe Moore-McNeil excel at different things, and that’s why Indiana benefits so much from having them both as its leaders. Moore-McNeil has emerged as Indiana’s primary point guard, her calm and collected nature is crucial in keeping the Hoosiers playing at the right tempo. She makes plays for her teammates but can shoot the 3-ball or drive in for a layup just the same. She doesn’t talk much but doesn’t need to — her actions speak for themselves.

Holmes’ actions also speak for themselves, but her ability to be a vocal and talkative leader sets her apart even more. When the moment calls for it, she’ll be the one to yell and fire the rest of her teammates up. She makes layups no matter what position she’s put in and can get up for a block or down for a steal with the best of them, and plays with an aggressiveness that’s only bolstered by her big reactions on the court.

Indiana’s 77-71 win against Illinois on Sunday in Bloomington showed just how crucial both players are to Indiana’s success — and in keeping with the theme, they’re essential in different ways. Holmes was undoubtedly the star of the show, hitting the 30-point mark for the fifth time in her career. She set the tone from the jump, scoring Indiana’s first eight points without hesitation, and followed that up by going into takeover mode in the fourth quarter to score 13 points and lock in the victory.

As is usually the case, the Hoosiers ran their offense through the All-American. It goes like this: if she’s open, get her the ball because when she has it, she will probably score. And Holmes was open a lot.

“Every game I trust that my teammates are going to find me when I’m open, and I knew that I just had to do my work down there, and get in position,” she said. “If I was open and had single coverage then my teammates would find me.”

Find her, they did. But Holmes didn’t just make a difference offensively — her final stat line included seven rebounds, two blocks, two assists and two steals. Is that surprising for a post-player? Not if she’s Mackenzie Holmes.

“She’s not good by accident,” Grace Berger, who was back in Bloomington to cheer on her former team, said during an interview on Big Ten Network. “Nothing surprises me with Mackenzie. She’s as consistent as they come.”

Unsurprisingly, it’s not just Berger who recognizes how important Holmes is for the team.

“It brings me joy, personally, watching the work she puts in every day,” Moore-McNeil said. “Nobody deserves this more. I would say just being out there with somebody like that, you really have to soak it all in and be grateful for it every single day.”

Moore-McNeil also had a career game against the Illini, scoring 19 points to tie her career-high. She also grabbed two assists and had three rebounds and one steal, but the most important thing about her game on Sunday was something that will never be properly shown on a stat sheet.

The thing about Moore-McNeil is that even though she may be quiet, that doesn’t mean she backs down from a challenge. And before Sunday’s game, she was handed a challenge.

“Way before the game, Coach (Moren) sat me down and she was just straight up with me,” Moore-McNeil said. “She was like, ‘I need you to be more aggressive for us.’”

Moore-McNeil met that request by taking on the responsibility of being a more significant scoring threat and facilitating plays for her teammates in crucial moments. That kind of mentality really can’t be quantified.

“We need Chloe Moore-McNeil to continue to put pressure on the defense the way she did today,” Moren said. “When we can have Chloe be as aggressive as she was today, that will only help our basketball team. And so I’m really proud of what she was able to do today for us.”

To succeed in conference play, and win a conference championship, teams need multiple players to step up and lead in various ways. It seems like Indiana has just that.

(Photo credit: IU Athletics)

Filed to: