With just a couple ticks left in the first half, junior guard Grace Berger weaved her way down the court, squared her body and nailed a 3-pointer.
The buzzer-beater capped a 17-0 run and gave the Hoosiers a 32-15 going into halftime. After a competitive first quarter, the Hoosiers separated themselves with stout team defense possession after possession.
“We got hot in the second quarter and that shot was the cherry on top,” Berger said. “It’s always nice to go into halftime with a lead and momentum.”
That momentum lasted the rest of the game as IU defeated Purdue 66-45 Thursday in West Lafayette, Indiana. The victory raises IU’s conference record to 6-1 and puts them further in contention for the Big Ten regular season title. With a tough stretch of opponents in front of them, this win was necessary for the Hoosiers to hold serve with their goals.
On a night when senior guard Ali Patberg struggled to score, Berger sparked the offense throughout the game. She led the Hoosiers with 22 points, five rebounds and seven assists.
As their offense hummed, it was their efforts on the defensive end that extended their lead per usual. The Boilermakers attempted to get open shots through both on-ball and off-ball screens, but constant communication from the Hoosiers disrupted any rhythm on offense.
“I could tell from the beginning, we were dialed in on defense,” head coach Teri Moren said. “I thought in the second quarter, we were really, really good and took them out of some of their things.”
The Hoosiers have taken complete control against their in-state rival in what was once a back and forth series. Thursday marked the fourth consecutive victory over the Boilermakers and the seventh out of the last eight.
This rivalry is especially meaningful for Moren, a 1992 Purdue graduate. Her junior year, she was a starter and a valuable piece of their first Big Ten championship under Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame head coach Lin Dunn.
“I have some takeaways that we’ve used here in terms of trying to build this thing the right way,” Moren said.
In recent years, the Hoosiers have distanced themselves from the Boilermakers in head-to-head matchups and in the Big Ten standings. In their last four games in the rivalry, IU has won each by double digits.
Not only is the success in the series a “pride” situation for the Hoosiers, but Moren also utilizes it as a recruiting tool.
“We always talk about how meaningful it is, especially when we are recruiting some of these kids that are in the state,” Moren said.
Although there are only three current players on the IU roster from the state of Indiana, everyone on the team recognizes the magnitude of the rivalry. Berger said the team circles the date of this matchup every year when the schedule is released.
Berger, a native of Louisville, said she quickly realized how fierce it is when the two squads face each other.
“I learned very quickly that this rivalry is something that is taken very seriously in this state, and now it means a lot to me,” Berger said.
Although it was satisfying to comfortably beat their in-state rival, Moren and the Hoosiers said they are keeping the big picture in mind.
“At the end of the day, it’s still a team in the Big Ten that’s on our schedule that we have to go to their place and play really well to beat them,” Moren said Wednesday.
With Monday’s game postponed due to “continued COVID-19 concern within the Rutgers program,” the Hoosiers will have a week off before Thursday’s matchup against Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan.