It is not unusual for people to wear masks while ringing in the new year.
But for junior guard Ali Patberg, she had a masquerade of her own as the ball tipped in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on New Year’s Eve.
Patberg fractured her nose Friday in the team’s win against Illinois, and she decided to wear a protective mask Monday against Penn State.
“She was stroking it with the mask,” junior forward Brenna Wise said.
Patberg scored 26 points in IU’s 83-75 win.
Behind a season-high 4,481 people in attendance, IU capitalized in the fourth quarter after struggling offensively most of the game. The team shot below 30 percent in the first half, but Patberg was able to lead the charge in the second half where she scored 17 of her points.
It wasn’t just scoring that filled the stat sheet for Patberg either, as she grabbed eight rebounds along with four assists.
IU Coach Teri Moren was concerned that the mask would be a distraction for Patberg, but it turned out to be just the opposite.
“It helped so I could stay aggressive and not have to worry about if I could go after a loose ball or get my nose into it when I’m guarding,” Patberg said.
While Patberg and her mask stole the show, Wise’s performance could not be overlooked.
Wise, who only took eight field goal attempts, turned in her second 20-point performance of the season largely in part to 13-14 shooting from the free-throw line. She improved her free-throw percentage to 91.4 which ranks ninth in the nation.
In a game where IU struggled to get shots to fall, the team capitalized at the free throw line by shooting 31-37.
“Penn State is not a team that typically fouls a lot and gives other teams opportunities to get to the free throw line,” Moren said. “It was a challenge to our kids today because Penn State has proven that they are sound defensively.”
IU improved its record to 13-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten ahead of a matchup Sunday at 2 p.m. at home against Michigan State.
After two tight conference games, Moren said the team expects a lot more games like that because of parity in the conference. And that is something Wise said the team is prepared for.
“Welcome to the Big Ten,” Wise said.