Via Stefan Krajisnik of the Indianapolis Star
Megan Gustafson’s jersey hangs in the rafters of Carver-Hawkeye Arena after she had one of the most dominant collegiate basketball careers in recent history.
Inside the arena on Sunday was a player in Mackenzie Holmes who models her game after Gustafson and is flattered when she even hears the comparison of their playing style, which has happened a couple of times now during an Indiana television broadcast.
“Any time I get a compliment like that, it means a lot to me and it fuels my fire to keep working hard,” Holmes said.
While Holmes has a ways to go to reach the accolades of a player like Gustafson, her performance on Sunday in Indiana’s 85-72 win at Iowa was one worth all of the praise — the first win for the Hoosiers (11-4, 9-2 Big Ten) at Iowa since 1994.
Holmes led the way for Indiana with 25 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks — scoring 16 of those points in a dominant second half.
Moren admitted at times when her team has struggled, they begin to lean too much on the outside shot and don’t go to Holmes as much. The eight makes on nine field-goal attempts in the second half show Indiana did not shy away from getting her the ball.
IU struggled at the start of the second quarter, allowing Iowa to build an eight-point lead before the Hoosiers made a run of their own to take a lead into halftime. When it appeared Indiana might pull away in the third quarter, Iowa returned the favor of a late-quarter run to make it a two-point game going into the final frame.
That’s where Indiana found its transition game again and started to rely on the combination of Holmes and senior guard Ali Patberg.
The Hoosiers won the points off turnovers category, 16-9, as well as outscoring Iowa 10-3 in fastbreak points. Even as the Hawkeyes (10-6, 6-6) chipped their way back into the game, Moren continued to stress her mantra of up-tempo offense. As the game went on, she could see the results.
“We thought our best offense today was gonna be running and getting downhill,” Moren said. “And I thought Iowa, quite frankly, got a little bit tired and fatigued.”
Leading that transition offense was Patberg, who pitched in 23 points. It was just the third time this season she’s had more than 20 in a game and comes on the heels of the sixth-year senior having to answer questions regarding a recent stretch that included three straight games where she failed to score in double figures.
But what Moren wants her offense to be, particularly against a team like Iowa, is what Patberg does best.
“I don’t ever really feel the pressure,” Patberg said postgame. “Coach Moren, she believes in me more than anyone. She coaches me hard — she coaches all of us hard — because she loves us so much and wants us to do well.”
About an hour before tipoff, Indiana sent out a release announcing that senior guard Jaelynn Penn had decided to opt out of the remainder of the season. Moren did not provide many details of why Penn made that decision.
“We want Jaelynn to take care of Jaelynn right now,” Moren said.
Stepping in for Penn in the starting lineup was transfer Nicole Cardano-Hillary, who also started three games in January while Penn dealt with an ankle injury.
Moren said it was helpful to have had a small stint to use as a foundation for Cardano-Hillary being put into the starting rotation, and with that IU got her best performance of the season.
Cardano-Hillary pitched in a season-high 17 points on 5-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-6 from deep.
“It took all of us today,” Moren said. “That’s what we wanted our response to be. I don’t know that it fell on just one person, just because (Cardano-Hillary) was in the lineup.”
The win for IU comes after another week that included game cancellations due to the opposing team’s COVID-19 issues. Indiana was in practice last week when it was decided that Thursday’s game with Rutgers was going to be postponed.
Moren talked postgame about the mental struggles of the start-and-stop that this season brings and how taxing that can be on teams without strong veteran leadership.
For Moren, that’s not an issue as she said her team was quick to turn its attention to the matchup with Iowa and delve into the scouting report.
“They are always chomping at the bit to get on the floor and compete,” Moren said.
The Hoosiers’ upcoming week includes a home game Wednesday against a Penn State team it beat 85-64 last month before traveling to play Illinois next Sunday.