It was not easy.
Those were some of the first words IU Coach Teri Moren said after the Hoosiers' 85-83 overtime victory over Illinois to begin conference play.
It was game that saw IU lead by 15 in the first half and trail by 11 in the second half, but the Hoosiers managed to come away with the tight victory Friday night in Champaign, Illinois.
Junior Ali Patberg continued her impressive season, scoring 20 points on 8-19 shooting and dished out out six assists. Sophomore guard Jaelynn Penn drilled five three-pointers and went on to score 19 points, while junior forward Brenna Wise and sophomore guard Bendu Yeaney each contributed 12 points.
As for Illinois, Alex Wittinger and Brandi Beasley led the way with 19 points each.
After trailing by nine at halftime, the 8-4 Illini outscored the Hoosiers 30-14 in the third quarter to take a 68-61 lead into the fourth.
Freshman forward Aleksa Gulbe came up big in the fourth quarter as she grabbed multiple offensive rebounds, giving the Hoosiers second chance efforts to cut into the Illini’s lead.
“We weren’t guarding very well so we just decided to switch five ways, and that really helped us,” Moren said. “Aleksa Gulbe came in for us, and she was really good on the offensive glass, which got us some momentum.”
With the game tied at 77 and just 1:36 remaining, neither team could find a tie-breaking bucket as the clock trickled toward triple zeros.
Patberg got the opening score in overtime, and later in the period, senior forward Kym Royster completed an and-one to give IU an 84-80 lead with 1:22 left.
As Illinois went to the free-throw line with 0.4 on the clock, they had to make the first and intentionally miss the second to attempt an offensive put-back to tie the game.
The Illini completed just half of that plan. They converted the initial free throw, but could not wrangle a game-tying bucket, giving the Hoosiers a gritty overtime win.
“This is really good road win for us,” Moren said. “Give our kids credit. They fought back when it seemed the odds were against us, it seemed. That’s one of the things I love about my team is just how gritty and tough they are.”
IU, now 12-1 on the season and 1-0 in the Big Ten, returns to Bloomington Monday night for a New Year's Eve date with Penn State.
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