No. 4 IU women came out flat vs. Norfolk State... then buried the Spartans with a 17-0 run

Matt Cohen
Special for IndyStar

BLOOMINGTON – In shootaround Tuesday morning, IU coach Teri Moren talked to her team about a trap game. She mentioned a highly-ranked team coming off a big, emotional victory having to play its next game against a lesser nonconference opponent.

Norfolk State isn’t a flashy name, Moren said, and she wanted to make sure her players were just as consistent as they would be against a top-15 team. But she’s not sure her message was heard.

IU came out flat only just over 48 hours after the final buzzer sounded following IU’s win over then-No. 13 Kentucky. It was just over 24 hours after IU moved into the top-5 in the AP poll for the first time in its history.

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But when IU struggled early, it turned to what was reliable: its post players. Behind junior Mackenzie Holmes’ 22 points and a 17-0 run to close the first half, and senior Aleksa Gulbe’s career-high 22 points, No. 4 IU pulled away from Norfolk State to win 72-42 Tuesday night at Assembly Hall.

Indiana's Mackenzie Holmes (54) works against Norfolk State's Mahoganie Williams (10) during the second half of the Indiana versus Norfolk State women's basketball game at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Tuesday, November 16, 2021.

“Just had to lumber our way through the game, that’s the only way I can describe it,” Moren said. “There’s going to be nights where it’s not going to be pretty.”

The slow start came against a Norfolk State team wearing its home uniforms because it hadn’t had time to wash its road ones. Norfolk State left campus around 3 a.m. Friday to drive to Ohio State where it played Sunday. It then traveled straight from Columbus, Ohio to Bloomington.  

Yet IU only led 17-14 after the first quarter, before the Hoosiers worked to consistently get the ball to Holmes.

Holmes had 18 of her 22 points in the first half. Her teammates continued to feed her inside for easy lay-ups. It was Holmes that led IU’s big run to close the first half. IU led 22-21 with 7:23 to go in the second quarter. It wouldn’t allow Norfolk State to score for the rest of the half.

“We knew we were going to be able to get inside,” Holmes said. “I think they did a good job of looking for me.”

IU had at 17-0 run — of which Holmes scored six of the first nine points in it — to close the first half.

“We needed something like that,” Moren said.

And there was a point early in the second half where Holmes had 20 points and Norfolk State as a team only had 21.

Then it was Gulbe’s turn. Gulbe scored 17 points and had eight rebounds in the second half. In total, she had 22 points and 12 rebounds — a double-double, just as Moren has talked about wanting Gulbe to average this season. This was Gulbe’s career high in points and her third career double-double.

Indiana's Aleksa Gulbe (10) scores over Norfolk State's Lacee Savage (4) in the second half of the Indiana versus Norfolk State women's basketball game at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Tuesday, November 16, 2021.

“Me and Coach talked about senior year expectations,” Gulbe said. “Today there were moments where my teammates found me and all of that together made this a double-double game.”

IU’s leading scorers had 22 points. The Hoosiers had 22 assists as well. Yet the 22 that lingers with Moren is the 22 turnovers IU had.

IU had only committed 23 in the first two games of the season — fewest in the Big Ten. The turnovers were a reason Norfolk State hung around in the first half at all.

“I don’t know if would consider this a pretty game at all tonight,” Moren said. “But we found a way to win.”

It was a win that followed a script consistent with each of IU’s first three games. A slow start followed by beginning to pull away in the second quarter and sealing a blowout win in the third quarter. IU is averaging a 24.67-point margin of victory in its first three games.

The Hoosiers will travel to Qunnipiac in Hamden, Connecticut for a Saturday game. Moren tries to play a road game close to home for out-of-state recruits if possible. This will be the Mackenzie Holmes game, a Maine native. The Holmes family has multiple busses planned to travel to the game.

INDIANA 72, NORFOLK STATE 42

Norfolk State  14   7   15   6  --  42

Indiana            17  22  18  15  --  72

NORFOLK STATE (2-2) – Jones 2-7 0-0 5, Williams 0-9 0-0 0, Fields 0-6 0-0 0, Francis 4-9 3-4 12, Franklin 3-8 1-2 8, Diawara 0-1 0-0 0, Savage 0-1 0-0 0, Turner 0-4 0-0 0, White 0-1 0-0 0, Williams 3-5 2-2 8, Downs 3-9 0-0 9. Totals: 15-60 6-8 42.

INDIANA (3-0) – Holmes 11-15 0-0 22, Gulbe 9-13 1-1 22, Berger 2-9 2-3 6, Cardano-Hillary 0-5 1-2 1, Patberg 5-9 5-6 17, Zaric 0-0 0-0 0, Browne 0-0 2-2 2, Wisne 0-0 0-0 0, Moore-McNeil 0-0 0-0 0, Peterson 0-2 2-2 2, Berry 0-0 0-0 0, Waggoner 0-0 0-0 0, Hose 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 27-53 13-16 72.

3-point shooting: Norfolk State 6-22 (Downs 3-5, Jones 1-1, Francis 1-1, Franklin 1-2, Fields 0-5, Williams 0-3, Diawara 0-1, Williams 0-1), Indiana 5-12 (Gulbe 3-4, Patberg 2-5, Peterson 0-1, Cardano-Hillary 0-2); Rebounds: Norfolk State 27 (Franklin 5), Indiana 47 (Gulbe 12); Assists: Norfolk State 8 (Francis 6), Indiana 22 (Berger 11).