2018 has seen an upward trajectory for IU women’s basketball.
The year started with the Hoosiers losing four of their first five games. The team then won nine of its next 11 games but still missed the NCAA Tournament.
However, IU continued to battle, earning the 2018 WNIT Championship before a 12-1 start to this season — most recently marked by Friday’s win at Illinois.
IU will look to flip the calendar on a high note and with a 2-0 Big Ten record Monday when it takes on Penn State at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Here are three things to know ahead of the New Year’s Eve matchup.
Ali Patberg has proven her leadership.
When IU has been in tough situations away from home, junior Ali Patberg has stepped up when her team has needed her most.
Coach Teri Moren has praised Patberg's on court performance. But Moren has also emphasized that she is equally important in practice and off the court.
The Columbus, Indiana, native is constantly shouting on the court, keeping the energy up. Averaging nearly 18 points per game along with five assists and more than six rebounds, her play backs up the talk.
In the team’s win over Illinois, Patberg led the way with 20 points. She said before the season that growing up an IU fan excited her about coming back to play at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, yet Patberg has done some of her best work away from home. In seven road or neutral court games, she is averaging nearly 20 points per game.
But despite all the numbers, Patberg has applauded her teammates and their ability to win as a unit in her post-game press conferences -- perfectly encapsulating Moren’s message of how unselfish she is.
Penn State is coming off a near-upset win.
Penn State opened up Big Ten play Friday as well with a 77-61 loss at the hands of the No. 4 Maryland Terrapins.
While the score certainly appears lopsided, it is misleading. Heading into the fourth quarter, Penn State held a 57-56 lead.
The wheels fell off for the Nittany Lions as the Terrapins would outscore them 21-4 in the fourth, but that is more a testament to Maryland's capabilities rather than Penn State's ineptitude.
However, the fourth quarter for Penn State might not appear as bad compared to the 30-14 third quarter advantage Illinois had over IU. While the Hoosiers completed the come back in overtime, the team cannot afford another stretch like that against a Penn State team that will look to rebound from a tough loss.
In the only matchup between the teams last season, Penn State slipped away with a 77-74 win at home.
That loss came on Jan. 3, which was IU’s first loss of 2018. The Hoosiers will have a rare chance to close out the calendar year with a win against the same opponent.
Home sweet home.
The Hoosiers have not played at Assembly Hall since a Dec. 9 thrashing of Missouri State University.
After a 2-1 finish in the Puerto Rico Classic and the aforementioned overtime thriller against Illinois, IU will have a chance to improve on its 6-0 home record.
Dating back to last season, IU has not lost at home since Jan. 13 against then-No. 10 Ohio State. Not only have the Hoosiers won at home, but they have been winning with ease. Their average margin of victory in the 17-game home winning streak is nearly 15 points.
This season, IU has scored close to 80 points per game at home while scoring just over 70 on the road or on neutral court.