After trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half and 16 points in the fourth quarter, No. 19 IU women’s basketball found itself playing from behind in an 84-80 loss to No. 12 Maryland on Monday.
The Hoosiers fell behind 10-0 in the opening two minutes and were outscored 23-9 in the first quarter before managing to slowly climb back into the game. IU had a hard time staying on top of Maryland’s well-balanced offense that leads the nation in scoring, but the one Hoosier able to keep up with the Terrapins was junior guard Grace Berger.
“It wouldn’t have been competitive if Grace Berger hadn’t been on our sideline tonight and out there on the floor with a red jersey on,” IU head coach Teri Moren said. “The game’s not even close if [Berger] doesn’t do what she did.”
Berger provided a much-needed spark for the Hoosiers in the second quarter to help erase their first double-digit deficit of the game.
The Kentucky native scored 8 of her 10 first half points in the second frame, and her offense could not have been more timely for IU. Whenever Maryland hit big shots to further extend its lead, it was often Berger looking to respond with a make of her own on the ensuing possession.
“I’m a very confident player,” Berger said. “Even when my shot’s not falling, I still always think the next one’s going in. My team needed scoring tonight so I just was extra aggressive and shots were falling for me.”
Down the stretch, Berger did everything in her power to keep IU’s hopes of winning alive.
Senior guard Ali Patberg, who made just two shots from the field, had a quiet night on offense. Senior guard Jaelynn Penn missed the entire fourth quarter with an ankle injury and junior guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary left in the closing minutes after taking an elbow to the eye.
Maryland took its largest lead of the game with eight minutes left to play, but Berger stepped up and willed IU back into contention. She scored 10 points and recorded five assists in the fourth quarter alone to make for a close finish, notching a career-high 26 points in the process.
“Every night, a different person could be our leading scorer,” Berger said. “Everyone’s a threat on the court anytime of the week. It’s not all about one player. That’s what makes us such a good team and that’s why we have potential to win championships and make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.”
With the Terrapins deploying a press and half-court traps that forced the Hoosiers to improvise on offense, Moren said Berger was at her best on those broken plays where she could identify and attack the soft spots in the opposing defense.
Berger’s impressive showing was enough to give IU a fighting chance at the end, but Maryland capitalized at the free-throw line in the final seconds and never surrendered its lead.
“We know we’re a great team capable of beating anyone, but it’s kind of hard when you get yourself down 10-0 at the beginning,” Berger said. “If we don’t let them go on those runs, the end result might be different.”