BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Mackenzie Holmes scored 19 points to lead Indiana to an 85-51 victory over Charlotte on Saturday in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament.
Serving as hosts for the first time in the women’s tournament, the third-seeded Hoosiers (23-8) used a 22-2 run across a nearly six-minute first-half stretch to blow the game open. Aleksa Gulbe scored the final five in the spurt to make it 33-13 with 6:44 remaining in the half.
The lead never dipped below 20 in the second half as Holmes scored 15 of her points after halftime.
The 6-foot-3 junior forward and second-team All-Big Ten selection made 9-of-15 shots to help IU shoot 54.7%, the 10th time this season it shot better than 50%. She also grabbed eight rebounds.
Coach Teri Moren said she believes Holmes, who returned a month ago after missing eight games because of a knee injury, is starting to get more comfortable back on the court.
Holmes, who was the Hoosiers leading scorer before her one-month layoff, said her coaches and teammates have been pushing her in the leadup to the tournament.
“At the end of the day, I just want to do whatever it takes to win,” she said. “I just I’m trying to get better every single day.”
The Hoosiers enjoyed a balanced attack, with nine players scoring – including four in double figures.
Grace Berger added 18. The All-Big Ten senior guard who plans to return for a fifth season made 7-of-13 shots and added six rebounds and assists. She also became the program’s 13th player to eclipse 1,500 career points.
Gulbe finished with 15 points and Nicole Cardano-Hillary had 11 points and five assists.
Moren said the Hoosiers were able to take advantage of the 49ers’ offensive style that calls for everyone to crash the boards.
Indiana converted 21 of 30 layups and got 18 points in transition opportunities.
“It really gives you opportunities if you’re willing to get out and run to get some early scores,” she said.
Charlotte coach Cara Consuegra said that despite the lopsided loss, it takes nothing away from what she said was the best season in program history.
The 49ers made their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 13 years. They also claimed their first Conference USA tournament title and first regular-season conference crown in 16 years.
Octavia Jett-Wilson, the C-USA player of the year, led the 49ers with 19 points. The 5-8 fifth-year player made 7-of-14 shots, but the 49ers shot just 37% overall.
“We knew to come in and compete in this environment, we would have to play our very best. and we didn’t play our very best today,” Consuegra said. “A lot of that again is credit to (Indiana), but we’re just not good enough of an offensive team to have the defensive performance we had today.”
Indiana advances to the second round and will host 11-seed Princeton on Monday.
Charlotte: The 49ers came into March Madness having won nine of their last 10 games, thanks mainly to their defense, which had held teams to 35.3% shooting, 15th-best in the country. However, they did not have any answers for an Indiana squad that was only the third to shoot better than 50% against them.
Indiana: The Hoosiers started out making just three of their first 10 shots, but they kept their composure and eventually found their stroke. Not only did they shoot well, but the Hoosiers also took great care of the ball, the six turnovers were a season low.
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