EVANSTON, Ill. — To welcome back senior guard Grace Berger and junior forward Kiandra Browne, Indiana women’s basketball dominated Northwestern with a 72-50 win on the road.
Berger had been out with a right knee injury since the Las Vegas Invitational Auburn game on Nov. 25 while Browne had yet to see the floor this season due to a thumb injury.
“(Grace) has only been in practice for a week,” Indiana head coach Teri Moren said. “Not that she looks like the Grace we’re used to seeing, but she looks dang near close to it, and I think it gives everybody a shot in the arm.”
In a post game press conference, Berger said she knew she’d be back around this time and that it was easy to be positive. She felt like her old self.
“Felt really great, almost surreal just cause it feels like it’s been forever since I played a game,” Berger said.
“I was definitely a little nervous. I think a bit anxious at first but truthfully just really excited and I feel just really fortunate that I had the chance to get back out there with a good bit of the season left.”
Senior forward Mackenzie Holmes posted her third straight double-double with 24 points and 13 rebounds as she moved up to Indiana’s 14th all-time leading scorer with 1,522 career points.
Holmes met the double team often in the absence of Berger and is grateful to have her right-hand woman back on the floor.
“Having Grace back helps in all aspects of the game,” Holmes said. “Offensively, defensively, as a leader. We all know what Grace means to us.”
Berger finished the night with 16 points and a team-high five assists while junior guard Sydney Parrish totaled 12 points and eight rebounds. Parrish earned the start over senior guard Sara Scalia who still played 29 minutes off the bench despite an unproductive 1-for-10 from the field.
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“It’s all fluid for sure, but it’s based on what Syd has done inside all of our games,” Moren said. “We could start six kids. I could still consider Sara a starter.”
The Hoosiers opened up the first quarter with a 7-0 run and furthered their lead when freshman guard Lexus Bargesser found Holmes in the post for two more and a 12-4 advantage with just under six minutes to play.
Four Hoosiers scored four or more points in the first frame with freshman guard Yarden Garzon pacing the team at seven points.
“I think it’s not only great to have me back but KB back as well just because the Big Ten is so tough every single game,” Berger said. “Just the depth is something that I think’s going to separate us down the road especially when we have tough games back to back to back.”
Holmes got things rolling in the second quarter as she connected on three consecutive buckets and was responsible for 14 of Indiana’s 20 points in the frame. Indiana led by as many as 18 and finished the half with a comfortable 40-24 score.
In the third, Northwestern struck from the charity stripe hitting seven of nine shots, but the Hoosiers limited the Wildcats to 15.7 percent from the floor later in the fourth quarter.
“When you’re on the road, and you’re playing against a Joe McKeown team, you better be on point,” Moren said. “You better be ready because he’s going to mix it up and make adjustments.”
Parrish and Berger closed out the game with four points each for the pair as Indiana cruised to its fourth Big Ten win of the season.
Up next, the Hoosiers will head back home to Bloomington where they will await Maryland on Thursday night at 6:30 pm ET.
“We’ve got to enjoy this one for the 24 hours and then get back to Bloomington and start prepping for a really good Maryland team,” Moren said.
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