BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana’s celebration began hours before the denunciation on Sunday as crowds of students and fans gathered outside Assembly Hall.
Inside, the party continued as the program’s first sold-out crowd finally witnessed a long-awaited net-cutting ceremony. It could be just the start for the Hoosiers.
Mackenzie Holmes scored 20 points, Grace Berger added 14 points and 10 assists, and No. 2 Indiana routed Purdue 83-60 to clinch a share of its first Big Ten regular-season championship since 1982-83. the league’s first season.
Indiana has never won an absolute title – yet – but the players and coaches rejoiced in the moment as they collected the trophy with deafening music playing in the background.
“I was so focused on the game that I didn’t even realize when I came out that we had won the championship,” Berger said. “I think Mackenzie told me that. Once I realized that, it was really special.”
The scene was yet another milestone in Indiana’s nine-year rise under coach Teri Moren.
Indiana (26-1, 16-1) has already broken the single-season school record and now, with 14 straight wins, it’s also tied for the second-longest streak in school history. . They have won 18 straight games at home and Moren, who became the Hoosiers career wins leader earlier this season, is two wins behind No. 200 with the Hoosiers and three behind No. 400 overall.
But what Sunday revealed most about those Hoosiers (26-1, 16-1) is that they’ve done more than just win games.
On the day they honored the 40th anniversary of the only other women’s regular-season championship team, Indiana also played in front of a season-record fourth crowd this season, 17,222. And they did the screaming cheering group , with fans bouncing repeatedly, carrying player numbers and a deafening roar as the final seconds ticked away.
The combination doomed Purdue’s party hopes.
Lasha Petree scored 23 points and joined the 2,000 point club. Abbey Ellis added 12 for the Boilermakers (17-8, 8-7). It wasn’t enough to avoid a ninth straight loss in the rivalry, and sophomore coach Katie Gearlds sees the Hoosiers as a model for her own program.
“Teri, in nine years, what she’s done here has been remarkable, something we’d love to replicate at West Lafayette,” the second-year coach said. “We understand it’s going to take time, but congratulations to Indiana today.”
The Boilermakers made it tough for Indiana again.
They closed the first half on a 7-0 run to cut a 10-point deficit to 37-34 and were still down five going into the second half.
Then Berger and Holmes combined for six straight points and Chloe Moore-McNeil added a midrange jumper to make it 52-39 with 4:19 left in the third quarter.
Purdue threatened to keep it close by responding with five straight to return all those points in one play – with Moore-McNeil making a 3-pointer and a whistled foul as the ball crossed the net. Sydney Parrish hit both pitches to give Indiana a 60-44 with 1:15 left in the third quarter and the only lingering question was whether the postgame celebration would last.
“We knew it was going to be another test, another challenge, but there was this mindset of whether we could do it in front of our audience, what a big moment it would be,” Moren said after spinning the net to the crowd. “Doing it in front of 17,000 fans, our friends, our families, is even more special.”
Purdue: Gearlds relaunched the program. Although he trailed for a half, Purdue ran into a perfect storm in the second half. Better days are ahead of Gearlds and its program, perhaps even this week, as they try to assert their NCAA tournament record.
Indiana: It’s been a dream season for the Hoosiers. They broke records on and off the pitch and now they have ended their title drought. But they insist they aren’t done yet. Winning their first outright conference crown should set Indiana up for a deep run in the Conference Tournament and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
CONSEQUENCES OF THE SURVEY
Nobody can quibble about the ranking of the Hoosiers. They are 9-0 against ranked teams, perfect at home and one win away from tying the school’s longest winning streak. But unless defending national champion South Carolina’s perfect season comes to an end, Indiana will remain No. 2.
Purdue: Hosts Penn State on Wednesday.
Indiana: Gets a six-day break before facing No. 7 Iowa next Sunday.