For the second time in four days, both the Ohio State and Indiana women’s basketball teams find themselves in a ranked matchup. After a Buckeye defeat to the Iowa Hawkeyes and a Hoosier win against the Michigan Wolverines, the two top-10-ranked sides battle in Assembly Hall.
To catch up with how the 22-23 season has gone for the Hoosiers, Land-Grant Holy Land asked L.C. Norton from The Crimson Quarry. Norton answered questions about the return of Grace Berger, the sheer dominance of Mackenzie Holmes, and who else to look out for Thursday night.
Land-Grant Holy Land: Last season, the Indiana Hoosiers lost center Mackenzie Holmes, and this year it was guard Grace Berger. After missing a chunk of time, how’s Berger been since her return to the lineup and overall how’s the guard done acclimating to the point guard role?
Crimson Quarry: I wouldn’t say she’s quite at 100%, but she’s about as dangerous as she was before the injury purely because it didn’t affect what’s going on between her ears. Berger makes smart plays and if she’s not scoring herself she has the awareness and court vision to find someone who will. She took over late against Michigan with Holmes in foul trouble, cementing Indiana’s lead and the win with her now-iconic midrange jumper.
LGHL: The Buckeyes are known for their press, and it hurt them Monday with Iowa’s Monika Czinano getting pass after pass behind the backline of the Ohio State defense. How have the Hoosiers done this year against the press?
CQ: Double-edged sword there. Teams figured out fairly early on that the way to beat Indiana, especially without Berger, is to press them early and often while frustrating the guards away from finding Holmes down low. It worked well, but it seldom led to wins.
It’s double-edged because it’s happened often enough that Indiana has found ways to get around it and has two viable ball handlers in Berger and Chloe Moore-McNeil. If this game were a few weeks ago, I’d call that the X-factor and why I may pick Ohio State to win this one. Now I’m less certain that’ll stop the Hoosiers.
LGHL: On the topic of centers, Holmes is on a historic run this season. According to HerHoopStats, she’s on pace to become only the 10th player in NCAA history to average at least 20 points and eight rebounds per game, on top of hitting at least 60% of shots inside the three-point line. Is Thursday another game where Holmes will make the night another one to forget for the Buckeyes or is there a way she can be stopped?
CQ: Holmes had to score the way she has in part because of Grace Berger’s absence, but she hasn’t really missed a beat since Berger’s return. When in doubt, find Holmes down low and she’ll make something happen more often than not. I’ve seen her use her footwork and size to beat any number of defenders a team can reasonably throw at her without giving open looks to Sydney Parrish and Yarden Garzon on the arc.
Holmes will find a shooter if she doesn’t think she’ll score, but odds are she’d still be able to. There’s no real established way to stop her that I’ve seen other than hoping for an off night or defending IU’s guards before they get the ball to her.
LGHL: In the preseason, you mentioned freshman guard Yarden Garzon as someone who could get a few minutes for a coach who isn’t known to play a freshman. Garzon stepped into a starting role at the beginning of the year and hasn’t lost it. What’s been so impressive about the international to earn such high respect from Teri Moren?
CQ: We all heard things and knew Garzon would be serviceable at the very least, but nobody quite saw this coming. I haven’t seen this from freshman under Moren during my time at IU, as soon as Garzon set foot on campus the whole team knew she was different. Mind you, the basketball scene in Israel is a bit different from high school ball here in the states, but Indiana has had international players before and Garzon is something else.
She can shoot with the best of the Big Ten on a good night, but she’s run cold on a few occasions. she‘s the same height as Holmes but doesn’t really have the same post presence. In time, I firmly believe she’ll be one of if not the best player in the Big Ten because there’s nothing she can’t do on the court and this staff develops talent at an alarming rate.