The crowd at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall shouted various chants and words of encouragement when junior guard Ali Patberg passed the ball to sophomore guard Grace Berger. Minnesota head coach Lindsay Whalen screamed one thing to her players:
What started as a scoreless first quarter transformed into a shooting clinic for the sophomore. No. 20 IU women’s basketball rode Berger’s season-high 25 points and 11 rebounds to a 65-52 victory over Minnesota on Monday.
“Whatever Grace Berger had tonight to eat, to drink, we need to bottle that up and make sure we have that on Thursday,” IU head coach Teri Moren said after the game.
In the absence of points as a team, Berger’s rebounding and passing contributed to IU’s offense in the opening quarter. With 12 seconds left, Berger secured the ball off a missed shot and rifled it to Ali Patberg. The junior hit a jumper as time expired.
IU shot poorly in the first quarter and continued to struggle at the start of the second. Minnesota was feeding senior forward Taiye Bello in the paint and staying on top of IU. Then Berger started scoring.
The Hoosier sophomore hit a shot from the left side of the court and put the Hoosiers up 19-15. Following a layup by the Golden Gophers, Berger attacked the paint and hit another jumper. And then another, and another, and another.
“She was clicking, without question,” Moren said. “When she sees that thing go in, her confidence goes to a whole other level.”
As defenders continued to pressure the Hoosier guard, Berger kept hitting mid-range shots. Sophomore forward Aleksa Gulbe and senior forward Brenna Wise met Berger at the perimeter and created enough room for her to evade the Gophers and get the ball off.
“My teammates were setting good screens for me and spacing the floor, and I just kept knocking them down,” Berger said.
Berger had all 10 of her first-half points in the second quarter and continued to lead the offense at the start of the third. She dictated the offensive tempo, spread the floor and scored IU’s first eight points of the second half.
When Minnesota turned to fouls as the game’s final minutes ticked away, Berger hit her free throws and played tight defense.
The Kentucky native helped IU prevent second-chance opportunities by boxing out defenders. Her career-high and team-leading 11 rebounds all came on the defensive end and allowed her to keep the ball and score on the other end.
Moren typically sends her guards back when an opponent shoots the ball. She relies on the forwards to secure rebounds. Tonight, Moren’s team relied on its shooting guard.
“We need our guards to rebound,” Moren said. “We face teams in the Big Ten that are superb in transition, and they really make you pay if you don’t sprint back. She had a good night.”
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