Courtesy photos by Nick Jenkinson
by Skip Daley, South Central Indiana News Network
It was a sunny 75-degree afternoon in Fort Myers, Florida for the Fort Myers’ Tip-Off, a four-team NCAA Women’s Basketball mini-tournament over Thanksgiving weekend. The first game featured #22 Oklahoma and Princeton, with the 6:15pm tip-off going to #21 Indiana and #19 Tennessee. Indiana put together a balanced game and add one to the win column.
Tennessee won the tip, but it was Chloe Moore-McNeil with the first rebound and the first bucket of the night on the opening Indiana drive. All-American Forward Mackenzie Holmes drew the double team in the paint early on, a reality she has become familiar with since last season. The Lady Volunteers were jamming the inside, forcing IU to look elsewhere.
From the onset, the game was back and forth with quick transition play off of the many missed shots. Balls spinning around the rim for both teams, as they got accustomed to each other. Indiana took an 8-4 lead in the first 5 minutes of play, thanks to a pair of triples, coming from Guards Sydney Parrish and Yarden Garzon. From the start, this fast-paced match-up was an exciting one, as anticipated.
Lady Volunteer Guard Jasmine Powell, former teammate of IU’s Sara Scalia when the two played together at Minnesota, hit a pair of buckets for Tennessee in the first half, but both teams had difficulty on the offensive side of the ball. The Hoosiers shot only 26% in the first quarter, while the Lady Volunteers earned a mere 18% from the field. The end of the First was an Indiana advantage, 12-9. Tennessee was blanked from beyond the arc after 5 attempts.
Indiana was forced out of the paint with the ball throughout most of the first half, and Holmes spent extra time watching from the sidelines after acquiring her second personal foul early on. The Hoosiers offered dribble-drive ball movement while attempting to penetrate Tennessee’s tight defense.
Indiana would push through the second quarter to increase their lead at the end of the first half. A big difference for the Hoosiers was Garzon, who, on her 20th birthday, battled incredibly tough on defense and was on fire offensively. She went 6 of 11 from the field for 16 points in the first 20 minutes of play. Indiana hit the lockers up by 12, 33-21.
Garzon would continue her masterful play into the second half, with a crosscourt drive into the paint and a spin move at the restricted area to earn the lay-up, giving Indiana an 18 point lead midway into the third.
But soon after, Sophomore Forward Lily Meister would quickly pick up 2 personal fouls, giving her 4 for the game. She would sit after 6 points and 3 rebounds, bringing Holmes back onto the court.
Indiana’s success from the perimeter completely opened up opportunities inside which were not available earlier on, and Holmes was prepared to capitalize.
“On any given night, the [3-point] shot can fall or it can’t fall. Tonight it just happened to be falling, which opened up some things on the inside for Mackenzie,” said Indiana Head Coach Teri Moren. “We were able to drop a few passes off on her and she finally stopped trying to get to the baseline. She listened to Coach Rhett to get to the middle, use her quickness, and it paid off.” Holmes would finish the game scoring 17.
With many Hoosiers in foul trouble, IU saw plenty of action from the bench tonight, 10 Hoosiers seeing action. 16 of those minutes were from Sophomore Guard Lexus Bargesser, who was impressive on the defensive end throughout the game. Meister was also impressive, having a career high, 8 points.
But the story continued to be Garzon, who did it in every way, putting up a career high and game leading 23 points, knocking down 5 of 6 triples, pulling down 5 rebounds, assisting 5 times, and demonstrating passionate play for every bit of her 35 minutes.
“I think it was a team effort,” said a modest Garzon, who often deflects individual accolades. “I promised my team that we came today to win this game, confident, and we left everything on the court.”
The perimeter success the Hoosiers experienced in the first half combined with aggressive rebounding, opened up opportunities in the paint. Indiana was able to work the ball in and out, playing Hoosier-style ball in the second half, and reaped the benefits. By the final buzzer, IU accomplished 32 of their 71 points in the paint. They nailed ten 3-pointers out of 22 attempts, assisted 20 times, and grabbed 42 boards, 30 on the defensive side, holding off the Lady Vols from accomplishing their typically high number of second chance points.
The final score was 71-57, and now Indiana will have another strong opponent in Princeton, who also won on Thursday, defeating #22 Oklahoma 77-63. Gametime is 11am on Saturday at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers, Florida. The game will be televised on the Fox Network.