Indiana title hopes dealt a blow with loss at Illinois

STATE FARM CENTER (IUSTV Sports) – For the first time in over a year No. 14 Indiana dropped a regular season matchup to an unranked opponent. The Hoosiers fell on the road to Illinois 86-66 at the State Farm Center. It was the first time the Hoosiers had lost to the Fighting Illini since 2013. 

“It felt like we got bullied all afternoon,” Teri Moren said after the game. “When you do get behind, you’ve got to be able to execute at a high level, and I thought we were poor at that.”

Indiana entered the second quarter trailing by one. By the time the halftime buzzer went off, the Illini lead was 16. Illinois outscored the Hoosiers 26-11 in the period, holding them to just 3-12 from the field. Reflecting on the quarter, Moren was blunt. 

“The second quarter was just awful,” she noted. 

Illinois did not take many shots from behind the arc, but they did not need to. The Illini thrived on the drive, charging to the basket for layup after layup. Their guards found huge success in the paint, collecting baskets and fouls. By the end of the game, the Illini had 24 free throw attempts compared to just nine for the Hoosiers.

“We didn’t have any great rim protection with our bigs,” said Moren. “When you play a team like this, you’ve got to be connected, you’ve got to help each other.”

Mackenzie Holmes appeared to be on track for another dominant performance against Illinois, scoring the team’s first eight points. In the fourth quarter, though, Holmes collected two quick fouls in a 40-second span giving her four personal with over eight minutes to go and the team down 15. Holmes did not foul out and remained on the floor for several minutes, but the fouls broke up Indiana’s offensive momentum and added the risk of the team losing its top scorer. 

While Illinois only used six players in the game, all six scored in double digits. Makira Cook continued her strong performances against the Hoosiers with a team-leading 22, while freshman Gretchen Dolan came off the bench and tied her career high with 11. Depth was a difference maker. Indiana used four options off the bench but were only able to muster two points from them. 

One positive sign for Indiana was the long-awaited return of Sydney Parrish. The senior had missed seven games with an injury. She only played six minutes off of the bench and did not score, but her presence on the court received applause from the traveling fans. 

Indiana falls to 21-4 and 12-3 in the Big Ten, dealing a large blow to their title aspirations. 

“We’ve got to figure it out. That’s all there is to it,” said Mackenzie Holmes. 

Indiana will host No. 4 Iowa on February 22nd in front of a sold-out Assembly Hall.