Indiana suffers sobering 84-57 loss at Iowa

  • 01/14/2024 8:13 am in

The first meeting of the 2023-24 season between the No. 14 Hoosiers and the No. 3 Hawkeyes was full of questions entering the game.

Winter storms and hazardous weather conditions across the Midwest changed the narrative in the few days leading up to the game from “What will this game look like?” to “Will this game even happen?”. And if the game happened, what would fan attendance look like? Would the roads be clear enough for travel? Would Indiana even be able to make it in a reasonable time?

Indiana made it to Iowa with relatively little trouble; the Hoosiers flew out of Bloomington Saturday morning and made it to their hotel with plenty of time to have a full shootaround and prepare for the game that would give them a chance to show the nation exactly who they are. Iowa fans, as dedicated as ever, filled Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Of course, the questions didn’t stop then. Instead, they went back to wondering what the game would be like. Would Caitlin Clark drop 30-plus points? What would Chloe Moore-McNeil’s defense look like? Did the Hawkeyes have an answer for Mackenzie Holmes? What did each team have to do to win? Who would win?

In a game full of uncertainties, there were a few sure things: it was going to be tough, it was going to be intense and it was going to take a full team effort to win.

Indiana didn’t have an entire team effort. Iowa did. Because of that, the Hawkeyes won by a score of 84-57.

“I wish we could have played so much better than we did tonight,” Teri Moren said postgame. “We weren’t very good.”

The first half of the game was the one most basketball fans expected; the score stayed close, Caitlin Clark was making her 3-pointers and Mackenzie Holmes was making her layups. The two teams went toe-to-toe on possessions, playing the way two top teams would.

But Indiana’s perimeter play on both ends of the floor left much to be desired and turnovers plagued them. On the other hand, Iowa saw multiple players hit their stride offensively and went into halftime with a six-point lead and all the momentum thanks to a last-second 3-pointer from Clark.

Six points are by no means insurmountable. That’s a pretty decent spot to be in at halftime against the No. 3 team in the country.

But Indiana came out of the locker room lacking the willpower and fire they needed to take down the Hawkeyes on their home court and bent to the will of Clark and her teammates. The Hoosiers were outscored 41-20 in the final 20 minutes of the game, making only seven field goals compared to Iowa’s 15. Indiana allowed eight 3-pointers and was out-rebounded 19-9.

“We were very, very bad in the second half,” Moren said.

Clark led the Hawkeyes with 10 points in the second half, and her efforts were supported by six of her teammates — four of whom scored at least five points. On the other end of the court, only four Hoosiers were able to score: Holmes and Sydney Parrish had four points apiece and Sara Scalia and Yarden Garzon each scored six.

“That kind of thing is contagious, you know?” Moren said about Iowa’s ability to have multiple players hit key shots in the second half. “It’s kind of a snowball effect. And it wasn’t fun.”

Snowball effects are good for teams who are hot. It seems counterintuitive, given the term “snowball,” but it works. Iowa came out hot from the jump, and the second-half snowball effect did nothing but push Indiana deeper into the freezing ditch they were already in. For all her efforts in the post, Holmes only finished with 16 points. No other Hoosier scored more than 11, highlighting the team’s need for other players to contribute — and do so consistently.

Parrish and Scalia have shown what they’re capable of from beyond the arc. Chloe Moore-McNeil can play aggressively on both ends of the floor and be a game-changer. Bench players like Lexus Bargesser and Lilly Meister can come alive and make an impact. But none of that happened like it needed to Saturday night.

Moore-McNeil stayed persistent on Clark throughout the game, disrupting her rhythm and limiting her good looks in the first half. But Clark found her groove eventually, and Iowa had other players to turn to until she did. Even after the fact, the Hawkeyes spread their scoring around in ways Indiana couldn’t.

Everything was clicking for Iowa on Saturday. In a game with many questions going into it, there are even more questions left for the Hoosiers to answer after the final buzzer.

“I think that we’re going to have to have some tough conversations, rewatch this game and have to get better and have to become tighter-knit because something like this, as hard as it is in the moment, I think there’s a lot to be learned from this,” Holmes said. “It was unacceptable and I think we just have to go back and not let it snowball.”

Indiana had its wake-up call in the second week of the season in its 96-64 loss to Stanford. Saturday’s loss was more of a mid-season lesson or wellness check. It gave the Hoosiers a taste of what was to come down the road come March and showed them what they needed to do — and not do — to live up to their potential.

(Photo credit: IU Athletics)

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