The latest win for No. 20 IU women’s basketball was not its cleanest effort this season. While IU defeated Minnesota 65-52 on Monday night, the box score tells a more complex story.
The Hoosiers trailed 14-11 at the end of the first quarter, shot just 1-9 from the 3-point line the entire game and had more free throw attempts than field goals made in the game.
In a game that never really found its rhythm because of the 34 fouls that were called, the main source of success for IU came from sophomore guard Grace Berger.
Berger scored a career-high 25 points and secured a career-best 11 rebounds to lead an otherwise stagnant IU offense that made just one 3-pointer all night, and featured only eight bench points.
“I knew mid range was gonna be open off screens,” Berger said. “My teammates were setting good screens for me and spacing the floor, and I was just knocking them down.”
Only junior guards Jaelynn Penn and Ali Patberg finished scoring in double figures with Berger. Penn finished with 15 points and knocked down IU's lone 3, while Patberg scored 11.
The Gophers halted just about anyone not named Berger, especially IU’s post players.
Forwards Mackenzie Holmes, Brenna Wise and Aleksa Gulbe were held to 10 points combined on 1-14 shooting. Holmes, who averages 11.8 points per game and 66% shooting, was held to four points on just 1-5 shooting.
“We anticipate she’s going to see more double coverages as we go through the rest of the Big Ten schedule,” IU head coach Teri Moren said.
Holmes only played four minutes in the second half while Gulbe replaced her, though it was not for lack of scoring. Gulbe’s four points came from fourth quarter free throws.
“We felt like Lex, with her ability has a little more experience guarding [Taiye Bello],” Moren said. “That’s really what it came down to.”
It was a different story for Wise, who was nearly held scoreless for the second time in the last three games.
Wise, still averaging 8.7 points, was 0-4 from the floor, including 0-3 from the 3-point line while hitting just a pair of free throws. She has not broken double digits since Dec. 15 against Youngstown State University.
“Brenna Wise continues to struggle beyond the arc which is a little bit perplexing because of how much time she spends in the gym still,” Moren said.
Berger scored 18 consecutive points for the Hoosiers, including the final 10 points of the second quarter while Penn took on a streak of her own, scoring seven straight in the third.
Patberg chipped in by hitting a layup with 3:34 remaining in the third to push IU’s lead to eight points.
IU would not make a field goal in the fourth until the final two minutes of the game, scoring 15 of its 17 points from free throws.
“We hit a lot of free throws,” Patberg said. “We made defensive stops, and we did what we had to do to win.”
The Hoosiers earned sole possession of third place in the Big Ten and a second consecutive win following a three-game losing streak.
“Whatever Grace Berger had tonight to eat, or to drink,” Moren said, “we need to bottle that up and make sure we have that on Thursday.”