INDIANAPOLIS — Junior guard Ali Patberg knocked in a free throw with less than 25 seconds left in the game, turned toward the halfcourt line inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse and gave junior forward Brenna Wise a high five.
It was a moment for the two to embrace what would close out to be a 66-58 win over Minnesota in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. Not only was it a key win in terms of NCAA Tournament hopes for the IU’s women’s basketball team, but it was another example of what Patberg and Wise have brought to the team this season.
“Last year, our run in the NIT, I think they were so much a part of that in terms of helping us prepare,” IU Coach Teri Moren said. “But when you’ve got that uniform on, it means something. And I’m sure it is, it’s special for them, finally to be able to get out and finally get to the Big Ten Tournament and win their first game."
Both Wise and Patberg sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, but this year they’ve been leaders for IU on and off the court.
Against Minnesota, the duo combined for 39 points and each shot 3-for-4 from beyond the arc.
Patberg was forced to take time off the court this season after suffering a shoulder injury Feb. 6 against the Golden Gophers, but in her first game against the team since then, she kept the injury off her mind.
“I was just trying to do my best so we could get the win,” Patberg said. “That was the focus.”
IU got off to a hot start in the game, leading by 14 at halftime. However, a press defense by Minnesota forced IU into turnovers and tough shots in the second half.
But the Hoosiers were able to maintain their success due to the up-tempo offense the team can run with Patberg at the point. When IU could push and not allow Minnesota to get its defense set, the team was nearly unstoppable.
“Coach is always reminding her that when you get stops, make them pay for that,” Wise said of Patberg. “The fact that she pushes the ball with her head up and she creates so much, she penetrates, she spaces the floor — our greatest offense is transition."
Minnesota outscored IU in the third and fourth quarters, but as the game continued to get close, Wise reminded Patberg of what the two had gone through to get to this point.
“I walked out on the floor and I said, ‘Ali, we sat out an entire year for this, let’s not give it up,’” Wise said. “It’s those moments that you’re like, ‘You’re right. We sat an entire year. We can fight for five more minutes.’”
Playing in the conference tournament means that one fight quickly turns into another, and it doesn’t get any easier for the Hoosiers.
IU will be back at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Bankers Life Fieldhouse to face No. 2-seeded Iowa. The Hoosiers defeated the Hawkeyes on Feb. 21 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, a game in which Wise and Patberg combined for 45 points.
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