No. 6 Indiana holds off Auburn in Las Vegas Invitational
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Mackenzie Holmes had a perfect shooting night Friday and scored 18 of her 26 points in the second half to lead No. 6 Indiana to a 96-81 victory over Auburn in the Las Vegas Invitational.
Holmes, who also had 12 rebounds, made all 10 of her field goal attempts and all six free throws as one of five Hoosiers (6-0) in double figures. Her performance helped make up for the loss of point guard Grace Berger to an apparent knee injury less than two minutes into the game.
“Grace does so much for us on both sides of the ball,” Holmes said. “Having her go down early in the game was difficult, but we knew we had to rally around each other at that moment and do what’s necessary to get a win.”
Berger was injured when she collided with an Auburn player, falling to the floor and grabbing her right knee. Berger, who entered the game averaging 12 points, six rebounds and 5.8 assists a game, was helped off the court and into the dressing room.
Indiana coach Teri Moren became emotional when talking about Berger’s injury.
“Certainly, I’m concerned,” Moren said. “With the fact she didn’t come back in is always a concern. I knew she was hurt because of the look on her face when I got to her, and that’s hard. But what I do know about Grace is she’s resilient, she’s tough, and we’ll get her back to Indiana as quickly as we can and evaluate here. She’s our leader.”
To help make up for Berger’s absence, Indiana relied on Yarden Garzon and Chloe Moore-McNeil and to share point guard, and each player had six assists. Garzon also made 4 of 7 3-pointers and scored 21 points, and Moore-McNeil produced 15 points.
Indiana’s more even scoring overcame a 22-point effort each from Auburn’s Honesty Scott-Grayson and Aicha Coulibaly. Scott-Grayson had 20 of those points through the first three quarters before fading in the fourth.
“I think she tired out,” Auburn coach Johnnie Harris said. “They started mixing up man and zone (defense) and kind of threw her off a little bit.”
Auburn (3-2) hung tough with the Hoosiers for the most part, trailing only 30-29 early in the second quarter. Sparked by Garzon’s back-to-back 3-pointers, Indiana then went on an 11-point run and kept a double-digit lead the rest of the half.
If Garzon got the Hoosiers going early from outside, the 6-foot-3 Holmes dominated inside in the second half.
“We felt like we were going to find holes inside of their defense,” Moren said. “Mac does a great job of being where she needs to be in terms of movement, also being around the rim a lot. She’s long, and she has exceptional footwork.”
This is Indiana’s best start since the 2018-19 season when that team began 10-0. Indiana advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament that season. The Hoosiers also have scored at least 90 points in three consecutive games for the first time in program history.
THE BIG PICTURE
Indiana hasn’t relied on its zone defense much this season, but the Hoosiers went to it often against Auburn, rotating between the 2-3 and man-to-man. Moren said she expected to use the zone in this game, but went to it more than she anticipated. With Berger possibly out for an extended period of time, the zone could become even more important for the Hoosiers as they move around pieces.
The game got away from Auburn at the end, but the Tigers were largely competitive. Playing top competition is helping the six Tigers freshmen to grow up quickly. Three are in the starting lineup as Harris, now in her second year, tries to build a program that hasn’t had a winning season since going 22-10 in the 2018-19 season.
Indiana: plays Memphis on Saturday for its second game in Las Vegas Invitational. The Tigers (4-2) lost to St. John’s 61-57 on Friday.
Auburn: faces Colorado State.
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