The starting guards for No. 20 IU women’s basketball have been the team's strongest asset in recent victories. They will be the go-to option to counteract the high-scoring Wisconsin forwards on Thursday.
IU snapped a three game losing streak Jan. 23 against Penn State with a 76-60 victory and returned to take down Minnesota 65-52 on Monday.
Leading the way for the Hoosiers on offense were junior guards Ali Patberg and Jaelynn Penn and sophomore guard Grace Berger. They put these games away with strong mid-range shooting and scoring near the basket.
Patberg continues breaking full court presses and making her way to the basket. She finishes contested layups and uses quick cuts through the paint to catch passes and score.
Although Penn is struggling with her shot, the junior has scored in double figures the last two games. Jumpshots near the paint have been a staple of her game, as well as the occasional corner 3-pointer.
Berger had a career-high 25 points and 11 rebounds in Monday’s win against Minnesota. From the end of the second quarter through the beginning of the third, she scored 18 straight points for the IU offense.
“Grace’s midrange is one of the best in the country,” Patberg said after Monday’s win. “When someone’s playing like that offensively, we’re just going to keep giving them the ball, and she was awesome.”
Wisconsin’s guards facilitate its offense, but the forwards lead the scoring. Sophomore forward Imani Lewis leads Wisconsin on offense, ranking seventh in the Big Ten for scoring. Lewis’ mid-range shooting will force senior forward Brenna Wise and sophomore forward Aleksa Gulbe to venture outside the paint on defense.
“Defensively, we are still working some things out,” IU head coach Teri Moren said after Monday’s win. “Have better rim protection, that is what we gotta continue to rep every single day in practice as we move forward.”
Another Badgers' threat is senior forward Abby Laszewski. If Lewis takes the Hoosier forwards away from the rim, Laszewski can take advantage of open looks under the basket.
The Wisconsin senior is fifth in the conference in blocks and will pose a challenge for Patberg or other guards driving to the basket.
IU forwards have been quiet on offense during the last four games. Freshman forward Mackenzie Holmes was the only forward to reach double digits. She scored 18 points against Penn State and a season-high 22 points against Northwestern on Jan. 16.
Gulbe is averaging seven points on 35% shooting while Wise has averaged four points on 33% shooting over this stretch.
IU is 47-23 in its history against Wisconsin and has taken the last four consecutive games. Moren’s team had four players who scored 13 or more points when IU defeated Wisconsin 75-68 on Jan. 13, 2019.
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