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Indiana’s season ends in Sweet Sixteen with loss against No. 1 South Carolina

MVP ARENA (IUSTV Sports) – Trailing by 17 at halftime against the top-ranked team in the country, memories of disappointing blowout losses at Stanford and Iowa may have pushed their way into the minds of Indiana fans. The players, however, never wavered. A dominant South Carolina performance turned into an Indiana-dominated second half. In the end, though, it was the top-seeded Gamecocks that moved on to the Elite Eight, winning 79-75. The season ends for the Hoosiers, but not without leaving their mark. 

“We could have given up after halftime, and it could have been a really ugly game, but we’re fighters, and I think we showed that tonight,” said senior guard Sydney Parrish. 

“I can’t overstate enough how proud I am and our staff is of our group and the way they fought,” said head coach Teri Moren

Indiana did not have an answer for Kamilla Cardoso. The six-foot-seven forward had her way in the first half, leading all scorers with 13 at the break. Cardoso impacted the game on the opposite side of the ball as well. Indiana was able to get six three-pointers in the half, but was unable to establish offense on the interior. 

“I think the biggest thing was how composed we were. We didn’t freak out because we were down big, and I think that helped us going into the game,” said Parrish. 

The switch flipped in the second half, with the Hoosiers handing the Gamecocks a rare losing half. Leading the charge for Indiana was Sydney Parrish. Parrish had 16 points in the half and finished with 21. Five of Parrish’s seven buckets came from beyond the arc. With three graduating seniors, Moren mentioned postgame the hope that Parrish would be a key leader next season. 

“We knew we were going to fight until the end, whether that was for us to make it to the Elite Eight or whether it was for Sara, Mackenzie and Arielle, it being their last game,” said Parrish.

“We won the second half, we won the third quarter, we won the fourth quarter. Felt like the momentum was definitely on our side throughout,” said Moren. 

True to South Carolina’s style, they only had two double-digit scorers, but the deepest team in the country had eight scorers with at least four points each. 

Mackenzie Holmes showed plenty of emotion as her collegiate career came to a close along with Sara Scalia and Arielle Wisne. In a season in which she became the program’s winningest player and all-time leading scorer, Holmes and Moren were able to reflect on Holmes’ impact on the growing program. 

“Mackenzie Holmes has been one of our greatest players ever to put on an Indiana uniform and will go down in history as one of the greatest. So I’m sad for her because I know she’s sad that it’s over,” said Moren. 

“ I’m just very, very thankful that Coach Moren saw something in me, offered me to play here, and that I’ve gotten the chance to play five years under her with some really, really special people,” said Holmes. “Anyone who knows me knows how much I love being a Hoosier.”

While the team will be losing their top two scorers, Moren’s initial outlook on next season is positive. 

“I’m always optimistic. That’s just how I am. Always look forward to what’s next for our program. We’ve done a lot of really, really great things and have accomplished — this has been an unbelievable year,” said Moren. 

“Those guys that are coming back, this is a great experience for them. It needs to sting. It needs to hurt a little bit. I want our kids — as I said to them, to walk out with their heads held high. But I want it to bother [Lenée Beaumont]. I want it to bother [Julianna LaMendola]. I want it to bother Chloe [Moore-McNeil], I want it to bother Lily [Meister], all those kids, [Lexus Bargesser]. I want it to bother them, and I know it does,” she continued. 

Indiana finished their season 26-6 and reached their third Sweet Sixteen in four years.