Berger returns as No. 6 Hoosiers Wildcats roll 72-50

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Mackenzie Holmes scored 24 points and tugged 13 rebounds to lead No. 6 Indiana to a 72-50 win over Northwestern on Sunday.

Holmes had 18 points on 9-for-12 shooting in the first half when teammate Grace Berger returned to the lineup after missing eight games with a right knee injury.

Berger didn’t look restricted as she swapped out a thigh-to-ankle knee brace for a standard knee brace and finished with 16 points and five assists.

“[Berger’s return]gives everyone a shot in the arm, including our staff,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “But what I can say is that Grace is a fantastic player who will go pro. What sets her apart is that she makes everyone around her better.”

Holmes took over in the second quarter with 14 points, including eight straight points as the Hoosiers (14-1, 4-1 Big Ten) outscored the Wildcats (6-9, 0-5) with 20-12 and a 40-24 lead at halftime. She finished the field 10th of 14 and added two blocks in her sixth double-double of the season.

Berger accumulated three assists in the opening minutes before hitting a layup and hitting a transition jumper for her first buckets since finishing a win over Auburn on Nov. 25 and being ruled out indefinitely.

“In the past week in training and then in the game I felt pretty much like the old man,” said Berger.

The Wildcats got a boost off the bench when Jasmine McWilliams added eight points on 3-on-3 shooting in the third game. McWilliams and Sydney Wood led Northwestern by 10 points each as the team recovered 35.8% in their seventh loss in nine games.

The Hoosiers passed the Wildcats 46 to 33 and scored 20 points on 19 turnovers from the Northwest.

“The fight was there, (but) we have to get better offensively,” said Northwestern coach Joe McKeown. “We have been known for our defense since (my tenure). Offensively we need to find some easy baskets. We missed layups and we missed a lot around the rim.

TIP INS:

Indiana: Berger’s return is a huge boost for the talented Hoosiers as they seek to challenge for the Big Ten crown. Teri Moren’s battle-hardened group faces a tough schedule this month with ranked matches against Maryland, Michigan and Ohio State.

Northwestern: The Wildcats have played on the Big Ten four times in a row in a brutal opening stretch. McKeown is 0-5 to start Big Ten play for the first time since taking over the program in 2008. With trips to Iowa and Ohio State coming up, it doesn’t get any easier.

NEXT

Indiana: Host No. 13 Maryland in a matchup between Big Ten contenders.

Northwest: Visit Iowa Wednesday.

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AP Women’s College Basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter_APTop25

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