After tallying 80 points against No. 12 Maryland on Monday night, it was obvious that IU women’s basketball can excel on the offensive end. Junior guard Grace Berger was on fire with her mid-range game to keep the game close, but the Hoosiers fell in the end due to their lack of balanced scoring.
It was their toughest game to date in the season, and only one player showed up for the full 40 minutes.
On Thursday night against Penn State, it was a different story.
The Hoosiers showed how dynamic their offensive attack can be as senior guard Ali Patberg, sophomore forward Mackenzie Holmes and Berger combined for 66 points in their 85-64 win over the Lady Lions.
Great ball movement in the half-court allowed the majority of the points to come effortlessly. IU racked up 24 assists and only turned it over twice – both conference-game bests for the Hoosiers in the Teri Moren era.
“The best part of the stat sheet and what stands out is that we had 24 assists and two turnovers,” Moren said. “That is sharing the sugar and taking care of it.”
Penn State came out with a three-quarters court press followed by a zone, which tempted the Hoosiers to take three pointers. IU struggled from deep in the early going and only hit one in the first half, feeling the loss of senior Jaelynn Penn who was inactive due to injury.
But even against the zone, the Hoosiers stuck with their M.O. and played their most productive style — inside-out basketball. They scored 50 points in the paint off of dribble drives and post touches.
“Our game plan going into every game is to look inside,” Patberg said. “We believe we have a presence inside and out.”
That team mentality combined with Holmes’ elite sealing ability allowed her to score 27 points on 10-12 shooting. The guards looked for her underneath often, but also in transition where she has a distinct advantage against other teams’ bigs.
“She’s a rim runner,” Moren said. “She wants to run and get easy buckets in transition which puts a lot of pressure on the other fives that are trying to guard her.”
Once Holmes and her frontcourt counterpart junior Aleksa Gulbe enforce themselves inside, it opens up options for the guards. Patberg, who Moren believes is the team’s most consistent shooter from beyond the arc, scored 24 points while only missing three field goals.
It was a massive improvement after she struggled mightily against the Terrapins earlier this week. She made minor tweaks and it paid off.
“I was focused on playing like I know how and playing the game I love,” Patberg said. “By playing free and not hesitating and overthinking anything.”
Oh, and don’t forget about the player of the game against Maryland, Grace Berger.
She notched her second triple-double of the season, finishing with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. She is now the only player in the NCAA with two this season.
Berger struggled putting the ball in the basket early on, scoring only 2 points in the first half, but her multifaceted skill set made her just as valuable.
“Early on, I wasn’t hitting shots so my mindset transitioned to getting Ali, who was hot, shots,” Berger said.
Once again, it’s the sharing mentality that can make IU’s balanced offense so dangerous.