BLOOMINGTON, Indiana -- Hoosiers women's basketball coach Teri Moren received a commemorative basketball before Thursday's Big Ten showdown with the Ohio State Buckeyes. She posed briefly for photos, then tossed the ball toward her bench for safekeeping, her game face firmly on. The ball was to celebrate her 189th victory, the most by any coach in program history, on Jan. 18 at Illinois.
But Moren's mind was totally on the task at hand: topping the No. 2 team in the country and solidifying what now projects as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The No. 6-ranked Hoosiers did both with a 78-65 victory in front of 10,455 fans at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, the largest crowd for an Indiana women's regular-season game.
"Hoosier Nation showed up in a big kind of way tonight," Moren said. "The energy that was in the building was incredible. A great night for us, for women's basketball. It was a battle of two really good basketball teams."
The only larger crowd Indiana has had for women's hoops was 13,007 for the WNIT championship game victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies on March 31, 2018. That was in Moren's fourth season with the program, and since then she has built Indiana into an NCAA women's Final Four contender. Indiana made the Elite Eight in 2021 and entered this season as one of multiple Big Ten teams hoping to make long NCAA runs.
Thursday was the first time the Indiana and Ohio State women's programs met as Associated Press top-10 teams. ESPN Bracketologist Charlie Creme projected going into the game that the winner would elevate to the No. 2 seed overall in the NCAA field, behind the top-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks.
What separated Indiana and Ohio State was a phenomenal third quarter by the Hoosiers, who trailed 36-32 at halftime but then outscored the Buckeyes 27-6 in that 10-minute stretch.
It was the largest scoring margin any team has had over a top-2 opponent in a single quarter since women's basketball went to quarters in the 2015-16 season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
"We were pretty special there in the third quarter," Moren said. "We did make some adjustments defensively, putting Yarden [Garzon] on Cotie McMahon, who was so terrific in the first half."
In a game with many standout seniors, it was notable how well both freshmen played. Garzon had 20 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals for Indiana. McMahon had 21 points, but managed just three came in the second half.
Indiana senior Mackenzie Holmes, one of the nation's top post players, led all scorers with 26 points on 11-of-13 shooting. She is now shooting 68.2% from the field this season, which is second among Division I women and first among Power 5 conference players. Fifth-year senior guard Grace Berger, who returned to the court for Indiana in early January after missing eight games with a knee injury, had 12 points and six assists. And guard Sydney Parrish had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Hoosiers, who are 19-1 overall and lead the Big Ten at 9-1.
Ohio State started the week as one of three undefeated Division I women's teams along with South Carolina and the LSU Tigers. But the Buckeyes are now 19-2 and 8-2 after losing at home Monday to the Iowa Hawkeyes and again Thursday.
"I think Indiana has been building their fan base, and each time we've come over the last couple of years, it's gotten bigger and bigger," Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. "It's awesome for them and our league.
"We've faced some adversity this week, which is probably a good thing. We need to really get back to who we are. We played two great teams this week, and we didn't play well enough. They both deserved to beat us. We've got to take what we saw this week and get back to practice and make sure we can get better and be at our best come March."
Indiana, of course, has the same goal.
"I've had a lot of really good teams in my nine years that I've been here," Moren said. "But I don't know that I've had a more mature team, and when it's go time, they answer the bell. They don't panic, they don't blink. It's, 'Let's figure out how we can get in the driver's seat and then how we can keep our foot on the peddle and close this thing out.'"