The first quarter was bad.
No Hoosier made a field goal for almost eight minutes. Four Hoosiers led the team in scoring with just three points. Youngstown State University led 15-14. No. 12 IU women’s basketball was looking anywhere for a spark. It found that spark in its three veterans: Senior forward Brenna Wise and junior guards Ali Patberg and Jaelynn Penn.
The trio scored 50 of IU’s 93 points. They almost outscored Youngstown State by themselves, finishing six points shy. Led by Penn and Wise’s 14 and 11 first-half points and Patberg’s 15 second-half points, the vets carried the weight in a big way.
After just six points in the win over Butler University, Penn struggled early. She took just one shot and went scoreless in the first but turned it on in the second.
Penn got her scoring started with a driving layup early in the second. Two possessions later she hit a deep 3-pointer to get the fans on their feet. On IU’s next possession, Penn took one dribble inside the arc and drilled the pull-up jumper. As Youngstown State continued to hit its own shots, Penn kept answering to keep IU close.
Two minutes later, Penn hit another mid-range basket to pull IU within two, giving her nine points, not even five minutes into the quarter. Wise stepped up and hit a big 3-pointer, giving IU its first lead of the quarter and drawing a technical from Youngstown State coach John Barnes. After technical free throws, Penn hit double digits but wasn’t quite satisfied.
Wise took some weight off of Penn’s shoulders and hit back-to-back jumpers to get IU up five, its biggest lead to that point. After her second three, Wise kept her hand up to let the other team know she was feeling it. Penn came down and splashed a three on the next possession, continuing the three-point barrage. IU had five threes in the second quarter, two apiece from Penn and Wise.
Penn and Wise combined for 22 of IU’s 27 second quarter points. Out of halftime, that production came to a screeching halt.
Penn scored three points in the second half, tying her season high with 17 points. Wise scored just four points in the second half. But there was no fear for IU, as it had another experienced player to pick up the slack.
Patberg scored just three points in the first half, including going scoreless in the second quarter. After a very uncharacteristic game at Butler where she had just two assists and three turnovers, IU head coach Teri Moren guaranteed her star point-guard would turn it around.
After 20 minutes, she did.
Patberg scored five straight points for IU, including a deep 3-pointer. Then, she did what she does best, making a pass to Penn for a bucket and foul. Patberg was a better facilitator, collecting five assists in the game.
A minute and a half later, Patberg pulled up and hit a mid-range jumper, pushing the lead to 15 and prompting a Penguin timeout. Patberg finished the quarter with seven points but saved her best for last.
Patberg shot just 2-7 from three through the first three quarters but found her stroke in the fourth. After weaving her way inside for a tough layup, she hit both shots from downtown, putting her at 15 second-half points and 18 for the game.
After an abysmal first quarter, IU found itself trailing at home for the first time all season.
But the leadership of Patberg, Penn and Wise dug the team out of the hole and started pulling away for another big win. Even when they weren’t scoring, you could feel the urgency. You could see it on their faces. That’s what leaders do; they find ways to help the team even when they aren’t playing their best.
With a top-15 matchup in Bloomington against University of California, Los Angeles on the horizon before Big Ten play, IU will need production from everybody on the floor, not just the veterans.
But if the three-headed monster of Patberg, Penn and Wise keep playing at this high of a level, teams should start warming up the buses at halftime.
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