IUWBB wins 96-81, but loses Grace Berger to a knee injury

The Mirage Ballroom was the site for the match-up between #6 Indiana (6-0) and the Tigers of Auburn (3-2) for the 2022 Las Vegas Invitational. The room looked more like a local conference center with a portable gymnasium laid over carpet, than an NCAA arena. The few spectators that were there. appeared to be seated in rows of folding chairs, and not bleachers.

It was confusing to witness the 6th nationally ranked Indiana Hoosiers awaiting patiently, against a wall, to get onto the court for warm-up for the conclusion of the late-running preceding match-up between St. Johns and Memphis. That game, interestingly enough, ended in a bench-clearing altercation, resulting in Memphis walking away from the game with a handful of seconds remaining.

Almost an hour after the posted start time they would finally begin, but it was not long after the start, that Hoosier Nation would be on pins and needles . . .

All-American Guard Grace Berger holding her injured knee after getting hurt at the Las Vegas Invitational on Friday night against Auburn

It was only 75 seconds into game on Friday night when tragedy struck the Indiana Hoosiers. Graduate Guard Grace Berger was knocked to the floor while dribbling through traffic, maintained her dribble, got up, and then was knocked into again, being twisted sideways while a scrum occurred for the loose ball. The All-American player was in obvious pain, demonstrating a face of extreme discomfort that brought an undoubted dropped jaw of concern to every single fan of the game, watching in disbelief.

Berger would get assisted off of the floor and not return to play.

The first quarter was back and forth, as each team worked to gain the edge with their contrasting styles of play. Auburn was hungry, and their defense was scrappy from the onset, wreaking havock on the Hoosiers.

Indiana University Head Coach Teri Moren had previously described the offensive style of the Tigers as one of “chuck and chase,” which came to life as they would waste no time in putting up a shot and crashing the boards from all directions for the rebound. It would prove to be a successful method of play, as Auburn became the first team this season to achieve more the 10 second chance points against the Hoosiers, attaining 16.

At the end of the first half, Indiana was up by 12, 51-39. IU shot 53% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. The team was being challenged with every possession, including full pressure on their inbound plays, but they are also a team filled deeply with talent, with many players stepping up their game after losing Berger.

“Grace is our leader,” stated Coach Moren. “We will rally around her.”

And IU rallied!

Yarden Garzon (12) helps up Sydney Parrish (33) during their match-up against Auburn in Las Vegas on 11/25/22

Auburn was tight on defense, seemingly confusing the Hoosiers as they had difficulty moving the ball along the perimeter. However, the second half demonstrated that Indiana could work the ball inside on either high ball-screen drives or allowing Forward Mackenzie Holmes to work her magic on the low post.

After 3 quarters of play, Auburn would keep the game within striking distance, with IU leading 68-60, but the fourth quarter would be a high point for the Hoosiers, scoring 28. In the 4th, Freshman Starter Yarden Garzon would show the nation that she is incredibly versatile, running the offense for IU and finding Holmes inside the paint, for 4 phenomenal assists.

“Yarden’s head, if you watch her play, is always on the swivel; she’s always looking for the next person to pass to,” said Holmes of Garzon. “As talented as she is as a scorer, she’s even more talented as a passer.”

Indiana continues to rise to their specific challenges. Tonight it was more than adapting to the shifting play of the Tigers by showing them a myriad of defenses and finding  several ways to score, it was maintaining the will to play Indiana basketball, despite the obstacles.

“After Grace went down, we had to rally, all of us, we were a little out of sorts there for a minute . . . but we found our groove, I thought,” said Coach Moren during the post game press conference. Coach went on to praise the play of her Gaurds, who all stepped up to share the Point Guard responsibilities after the Hoosier leader, Grace Berger, was injured.

“A lot of good things, despite Grace not being out there,” Coach Moren told the media though a tone that could not hide her obvious concern for #34. “With the way that we battled, we showed terrific composure throughout.”

And composure would indeed be the word to describe the Hoosiers on Friday evening, tackling adversity and a very worthy opponent, leaving behind a very impressive box score.

The Hoosiers shot an amazing 54% from the field with 34% of their 3-point attempts. All-American, Holmes was perfect from the floor, knocking down all 10 of her shots and all 6 of her free-throww, achieving 26 points and adding a dozen rebounds.

Indiana also continued their trend of sharing the ball well, adding 18 assists to their totals. 8 Hoosiers were in on the scoring, with 5 achieving double digits. Besides the Double-Double from Holmes, Garzon had a career-high 21 points and 6 assists, Sydney Parrish had 16 points, Chloe Moore-McNeil scored 15 with 6 assists, and Sara Scalia added 12 points.

Regardless of the amateur feel to the entire event . . . from the scoreboard (wheeled in televisions, from the look) not displaying the correct score on several occasions, with confussion over the possession arrow, the play by play announcers contradicting themselves regularly, and even the game ball rolling into MacKenzie Holmes while she was in line to shake hands with the Tigers, Indiana handled themselves well on the court.

Next up, the Hoosier will continue their run at the Las Vegas invitational, taking on Memphis, tonight at 8:45pm.

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