At halftime on Wednesday afternoon, something needed to change.
For the Indiana women’s basketball team, there was no doubt what that something was — defense.
The No. 15 Hoosiers forced 11 turnovers in the third quarter, using a 12-0 run out of the locker room to take control en route to a 90-65 victory over visiting Penn State at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
“We pride ourselves on defense, so anytime someone is shooting over 50 percent from the field in half, we take that personally,” said IU junior guard Grace Berger, who personally did a little of everything in recording her third triple-double of the season — and second against Penn State — with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
The final piece of that puzzle was two assists in the final five minutes from Berger to Holmes, who knew the situation and was happy to cap off her own 25-point night.
“I was aware that she needed two more assists to get the triple-double,” Holmes said. “I wasn’t feeling pressure because I know Grace is confident in me and knows I can make those shots, so that took the pressure off that I knew she’d make a great pass for me to get the score.”
Indiana (12-4, 10-2 B1G) did the necessary work to put the game out of reach long before that.
Trailing 40-39 at halftime, the Hoosiers simply needed a mental reboot against the Nittany Lions, who came in on a four-game winning streak and carried that momentum through the opening 20 minutes, capped by Anna Camden’s basket for the lead with three seconds left.
“We just needed to be more interested defensively,” IU coach Teri Moren said. “It really became a pride thing for us at halftime taking with our guys and making sure we understood coming out in the second half and performing the way we did in the first half wasn’t going to be enough to win us the game. No doubt, we were a different team defensively in the second half.”
Not that Indiana players necessarily needed to be told.
“We have some time to talk as a team before coaches come in and that was something we talked about, we have to be better defensively,” Holmes said. “Coaches come in and solidify that for us and tell us details we have to get better on, but after a bad half like that, we already know coming into halftime wheat we need to work on.”
Penn State (8-8, 5-7) turned it over on four of their first six possessions after halftime, and the Hoosiers took full advantage with a spurt that included 3s by Nicole Cardano-Hillary and Aleksa Gulbe after IU went just 2-of-8 behind the arc in the first half.
Gulbe was one of four Hoosiers in double figures with 15 points, joining Berger, Holmes and Ali Patberg, who had 16 points and eight rebounds as the defense fueled the offense.
“Defensively, when we can get stops, we can get rebounds, we can get runouts,” Moren said. “It’s not rocket science for any basketball coach in America. That’s just how it works.”
The lead was never less than eight after that, and the steady bludgeoning of the third quarter gave way to Penn State practically waving the white flag in the fourth, as Indiana attacked the glass with impunity, outrebounding the Lions 12-1 through the first five minutes.
“I’d like to tell you it was some special adjustments we were making, but we needed them to adjust their minds and their focus and their heart and their determination and their grit, all that needed to change,” Moren said. “… It was more (a matter of) challenging them to step up in a big way, and I’m really happy and proud of the way they responded.”
Berger, who earlier Wednesday was added to the midseason list for the Wade Trophy, given to the national player of the year, started the final quarter needing just one rebound but four assists for a triple-double.
An assist to Holmes started the final period, followed quickly by a defensive rebound and then it just became a matter of time until the Louisville, Ky., native added to her historic season by tying Iowa’s Sam Logic for most triple-doubles by a Big Ten player in a single season and the second-most career triple-doubles in a Big Ten career.
“(It’s easy) when you have really good teammates who can make shots or someone like Mackenzie who you lob it up to them and they use footwork to make shots and get assists,” Berger said. “Assists are probably the hardest part of a triple-double.”