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No. 8 Indiana’s starting five superb in comfortable win over No. 13 Kentucky

The Indiana Hoosiers avenged last year’s loss to the Kentucky Wildcats behind great performances from Mackenzie Holmes, Grace Berger, Ali Patberg, Nicole Cardaño-Hillary and Aleksa Gulbe.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 14 Women’s - Kentucky at Indiana
Mackenzie Holmes (with ball) matched Nicole Cardaño-Hillary’s team-high point total from Indiana’s opener.
Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The No. 8 Indiana Hoosiers entered the fourth quarter of their Sunday matchup against the No. 13 Kentucky Wildcats up by a similar margin as they were up by in last year’s meeting with the Wildcats. Last year, the Hoosiers squandered a 10-point lead and lost by four, but on Sunday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind., they turned a 12-point lead into a 21-point victory (88-67).

Junior forward Mackenzie Holmes led Indiana with 29 points to go along with seven rebounds and two steals. She was a perfect 6-of-6 at the free throw line, 11-of-15 from the field and even converted on her one 3-point attempt. Senior guard Grace Berger added 19 points, nine boards and four assists while graduate guard Ali Patberg had 16 points and five helpers. Graduate guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary, who had 29 points on 7-of-8 shooting from distance in the team’s opener stayed hot with a 3-of-5 effort from 3-point land and a total of 12 points. She added seven assists, six rebounds and two steals. Senior forward Aleksa Gulbe rounded out the starting lineup with contributions of eight points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Indiana (2-0, 0-0 Big 10) couldn't have asked for a much better scenario from those five players while going up against a ranked opponent.

The Wildcats, on the other hand, are still searching for some consistency as they look to move up the rankings and not down. Last year they went from No. 11 to No. 18 and the year before that from No. 13 to No. 16. The fact that they have All-American Rhyne Howard, who is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft, suggests that they should have a high ceiling and should be able to overachieve not underachieve.

Howard notched 23 points, nine rebounds and two steals in defeat. She was 9-of-18 from the field and 2-of-6 from beyond the arc. She was just not able to get Kentucky (2-1, 0-0 SEC) close enough to make it a game down the stretch. Wildcat freshman guard Jada Walker was second on the team in scoring with 16 points, which is a good sign, but Kentucky’s leading scorer entering the game, Dre’una Edwards, was held to seven points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field.

Indiana shot 54.2 percent from the field, 6-of-11 (54.5 percent) from three and 18-of-21 (85.7 percent) from the charity stripe. It led by six after one and at the break. The lead at halftime would have been just three if not for a half-court buzzer-beater from Berger.