When shots weren’t falling during the third quarter, it looked like No. 22 IU women’s basketball was stuck in another shooting slump.
Within the final two minutes of the third, junior guard Ali Patberg stepped up and closed the quarter with eight points, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. That momentum carried IU into the fourth and gave the program an 81-53 victory over Nebraska on Thursday.
Patberg led both teams with 26 points. She scored 10 straight for IU between the end of the third and the opening minute of the fourth when the team shot 65% from the floor.
Patberg also knocked down four of the team’s eight 3-pointers as the offense got going in the closing 12 minutes.
“I was trying to be aggressive and attack the basket,” Patberg said. “Coach told me to be aggressive and that when I’m aggressive, my teammates are more aggressive.”
Patberg and the Hoosiers began scoring in the paint from tip-off. Quick bounce passes from the junior to sophomore forward Aleksa Gulbe gave the Hoosiers an early 6-0 lead and forced a Huskers’ timeout.
Nebraska tried double-teaming Gulbe, but the IU guards found freshman forward Mackenzie Holmes. She used post hooks on both sides of the paint, scoring over the Nebraska forwards and drawing fouls for free throw opportunities. She finished with 11 points.
Both IU forwards also kept Nebraska’s junior center Kate Cain scoreless, despite the fact that she scored the most of any Nebraska player in the previous game between these teams.
“I thought Aleksa and Mack in particular were just fantastic guarding her,” Moren said.
The Huskers’ highest contributor came from sophomore forward Leigha Brown. Her 22 points off the bench kept the Huskers in the game while the Hoosiers cooled off in the second quarter.
Gulbe, Holmes and Patberg cushioned IU’s lead going into the third, but slow shooting hurt the offense.
IU missed its first five shots of the third quarter, and Nebraska’s defense forced contested jump shots and shot clock violations. The Huskers posted two guards on whichever Hoosier had the ball. This forced bad passes and prevented the Hoosiers from scoring in the paint.
Sophomore guard Grace Berger took advantage of a screen and hit a pull-up jump shot with 6:28 left. The offense only hit two more shots in the next four minutes before Patberg took over.
“Ali gives everybody confidence and that’s what the result of that second half — especially that fourth quarter — was,” Moren said.
The Hoosiers shot 63% and scored a game-high 31 points in the fourth quarter. Their four 3-pointers forced the Huskers to come out on the guards, which allowed Berger and Patberg to drive to the basket or get the ball back inside the paint to their forwards.
With 3:25 left, Berger got the ball to senior forward Brenna Wise who was scoreless on the night. As Wise caught the ball and rose to shoot the three, the crowd at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall rose with her.
The ball fell through the net and gave Berger her fourth of seven assists on the night. It also allowed Moren to substitute her lone senior out of the game. Wise received applause from the IU crowd.
IU’s victory gave the program a double bye for next week’s Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. Before the tournament begins, IU has one more game to focus on. The Hoosiers face the Wolverines at noon March 1 in their final game of the regular season.
“Tonight we’ll celebrate this one and then tomorrow return back and get ready for a really good Michigan team on the road,” Moren said.
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