“A different feel”: Indiana’s emotions were on display in a dominant 86-69 win against Iowa

  • 02/23/2024 7:51 am in

There was stomping. There was yelling. There were chest bumps and high fives. There was pumping up the crowd and tossing under-the-breath remarks back and forth running down the court.

There was women’s basketball and it was good.

It was a wonder the court at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall didn’t break or the glass railings didn’t fracture. That no one’s eardrums burst or vocal cords tore was a miracle. Indiana versus Iowa was always going to be entertaining. It was always going to be emotional, as any rivalry between conference opponents should be.

Indiana’s 86-69 win against Iowa Thursday night was as high-level as it could have been, in terms of basketball and emotion. Players dove on the ground for loose balls, leapt in the air for rebounds and got in each other’s faces on both ends of the floor.

Mackenzie Holmes stomped her feet and yelled after big blocks and layups. Sara Scalia raised her arms in triumph after hitting 3-pointers. Chloe Moore-McNeil chest-bumped her teammates during timeouts. The Hoosiers played with the energy of a team that knew who they were and what they could do and they weren’t going to let anyone prove them wrong.

“You could see it brewing in the last few days of practice,” Teri Moren said postgame. “There was a different feel.”

Moren put it bluntly: Indiana was embarrassed after its 20-point loss to Illinois on Monday. There’s no way that was going to happen again, not if Indiana had anything to do with it. The defense had to be stronger. The offense had to be cleaner. Everything had to be better.

Against Iowa, it was. And it all started with the Hoosiers’ mentality. They wanted to play basketball, win and have fun. So when Holmes had the opportunity to encourage the sold-out crowd to be a little bit louder or celebrate after a big-time possession, she took it. She knew she needed to.

“I know that my attitude, my energy, I know my teammates feed off of that,” Holmes said. “So when I’m able to just be myself out there — which is an emotional basketball player — my teammates feed off of it.”

They fed off of it so much that it led to a technical foul. Who from? The person on the team who no one would have ever bet it would happen to.

But that’s what happens when you let Sara Scalia get in her groove and play one of the best games of her career.

Scalia scored a game-high 25 points against the Hawkeyes, shooting 8-for-8 from the free throw line and sinking three no-doubt 3-pointers. Scalia hit the same amount of 3-pointers as Caitlin Clark, who finished the night with 24 points and a 3-of-16 shooting performance from beyond the arc.

With one minute remaining in the fourth quarter, as the Hoosiers held an 83-68 lead over the Hawkeyes, Scalia drove to the basket for a layup. As she ran back down the court, a smile on her face and some choice words coming out of her mouth, she was called for a technical foul.

That smile didn’t disappear; in fact, it might have grown. Because when a player like Scalia — known as a stone-cold shooter who never shows emotion — acts like that, you know it’s been a good game.

“If it leads to a technical, I’m okay with that,” Holmes said with a laugh.

Moren didn’t know her sharpshooter would get a technical, but she was equally as amused by it. How could she not be when, just minutes before, Scalia sealed the game? With two minutes on the clock, Scalia was wide-open on the wing and fired a 3-pointer. It hit nothing but net, extending Indiana’s lead to 13 and sending Assembly Hall into a frenzy.

On the sideline, Moren relaxed.

“You could just tell,” she said. “That’s the dagger right there. That’s the one, that we’re gonna win the game.”

After that shot, Scalia lifted her arms in celebration, a picturesque representation of the satisfaction and joy she was feeling.

“It’s always a good feeling when the work you put in behind the scenes shows in games like this,” Scalia said. “I was just really proud of my team.”

It didn’t matter that she got a technical foul a minute later. In fact, that might have made it all better. Because Indiana beat its rival and it did so handily. Iowa struggled on both ends of the floor, unable to contain Scalia or match Indiana’s emotion.

Sometimes, there’s such a thing as playing with too much emotion. It can lead to mistakes or a lack of concentration. That wasn’t the case Thursday night. The Hoosiers played with the perfect amount of passion and it gave them a statement win against the No. 4 team in the country.

(Photo credit: IU Athletics)

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