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Defense and transition scoring lift Maryland over IU women’s basketball



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Sophomore Aleksa Gulbe dribbles around a Maryland defender March 7 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. No. 4 seed IU lost to No. 1 seed Maryland 66-51 in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. Colin Kulpa

As Maryland made its way to the free-throw line midway through the fourth quarter Saturday, the starters on the No. 20 IU women’s basketball team searched each other’s eyes for answers. Maryland’s defensive pressure was overwhelming, and time was running out. 

“We fought hard all night," junior guard Ali Patberg said. "Our shots didn’t fall, and that’s really disappointing.”

The Hoosiers dropped Saturday’s conference semifinal In Indianapolis, 66-51.The Terrapins played tight defense, pushed the ball in transition and outrebounded the Hoosiers throughout the second half. The team shot 33% and couldn’t keep pace.

“Our zone changed the game,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “It gave them more defenders to have to look at.”

Maryland’s full-court press stagnated IU’s offense inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Patberg and sophomore guard Grace Berger were forced to pick up the ball, make risky passes or take contested shots from the 3-point line. 

“Their press obviously slowed us down, without question,” IU head coach Teri Moren said.

Patberg shot 6-21 from the floor, while Berger hit just three of her 12 shot attempts. The team was only 21% from 3-point range. 

The Terrapins also played strong defense off the ball, which removed the Hoosiers’ presence near the basket. Maryland’s defense deflected passes and broke through IU’s screens that attempted to free up players at the basket on inbounding plays. 

IU committed 12 combined turnovers in its efforts to bring the ball across half court or find forwards and guards cutting through the paint.  

Patberg typically looks for Berger to catch the ball and shoot it near the free-throw line, but Berger’s defenders did not give Patberg room to throw the ball. 

IU sophomore forward Aleksa Gulbe usually capitalizes on shots near the basket, but the Terrapin guards' defense denied her from getting much of a chance.

Freshman Mackenzie Holmes was the only IU forward to have success near the basket. Holmes scored 10 points with her post hook shots and up-and-under layups. 

Despite Holmes’ efforts, the presence, height and length of Maryland’s forwards challenged IU’s ability to get shots off which translated into points in transition. 

IU allowed 15 fast break points that gave Maryland the chance to cement its name into the conference championship. Whenever IU came close to climbing back into the game, a transition layup or jump shot pushed it further away. 

“They’re great at getting that ball inbounded quickly and getting it up the sideline before some of our guys turned around,” Moren said. 

Rebounding was another part of what made Maryland's transition offense successful. 

The Terrapins had 13 offensive rebounds that enabled its forwards to soar above Berger and Gulbe for second-chance opportunities. These opportunities translated into quick layups or jump shots on the other end of the floor and kept Maryland out of reach.

IU lost all three games to Maryland this season and is yet to defeat its conference rival in the 10 matchups between these programs.

Moren and her players have to wait until March 16 before the team finds out if it will return to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Hoosiers were 11-4 this season in Bloomington.

Saturday's loss might not bode well for the program, but there is still a possibility that its first game of the tournament will be in front of a home crowd.

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