In a game that started quietly on offense, IU women’s basketball ended the first half on an impressive run that gave them a double-digit lead and enough momentum to later cruise past Wisconsin 74-49.
The Hoosiers led by just two points and hadn’t made a shot in over two minutes, a frequent trend on both sides early on. IU then caught fire to close out the half with momentum on their side.
The stretch started with senior guard Ali Patberg’s first made 3-pointer of the game with 1:53 left and continued with an and-one putback from sophomore forward Mackenzie Holmes. Wisconsin managed to convert a pair of free throws, but another deep ball from Patberg and a buzzer-beating layup from senior guard Keyanna Warthen put IU in front 35-24 at the halftime break.
“Anytime you go into halftime, you certainly want the momentum,” IU head coach Teri Moren said. “It wasn’t a fun first quarter to watch but in the second quarter we did pick it up, but a 10-point lead against Wisconsin is not enough to make you feel good.”
The Hoosiers led the Badgers 15-12 after the first quarter, but both offenses were stalling with long possessions and foul calls that sent shooters parading to the free throw line. Each team ended the quarter in the bonus, and they combined for 16 free throw attempts in the opening frame.
With senior guard Jaelynn Penn sidelined with an ankle injury for the second straight game and two of her starters in foul trouble, Moren went deep into her bench quicker than normal.
Four reserves, including Warthen, played significant first-half minutes and helped fend off Wisconsin as IU extended its lead.
“It always will start on the defensive end,” Moren said of her players earning minutes off the bench. “How can you help us? How can you impact the game on that side of the ball?”
Moren said she was most impressed by Warthen’s ability to assist Patberg in guarding sophomore Sydney Hilliard, Wisconsin’s leading scorer. Hilliard finished with a game-high 23 points but did most of that damage in the first half.
As things started to click for the Hoosiers defensively, their offense also experienced success in the second half. IU didn’t hesitate as much as in the first half and had an easier time finding the soft spots in Wisconsin’s defense, outscoring the Badgers 39-25 in the last two quarters alone.
Patberg connected on three more shots from behind the arc and finished with a team-high 21 points, a performance that Moren attributes to Patberg sharing the backcourt with redshirt junior Nicole Cardaño-Hillary.
“It’s been good for Ali to play off the ball,” Moren said. “I thought that Ali benefited from a lot of those pitch-outs from Niki just being able to get inside the defense and finding her outside the arc.”
As proud as she was of the team’s scoring effort, especially its 52.9% clip on 3-pointers, Moren said she knows they left some points on the board Sunday.
To go along with eight missed free throws from six different players, IU also missed a considerable amount of layups and contested shots near the rim.
“It doesn’t matter what it looks like, what we need is the two points,” Moren said. “We talk to our kids about just gathering yourself, going up, making it look easy, but it was nice to finally see our 3 drop.”
The Hoosiers are now 7-3 overall with a 5-1 record in the Big Ten. IU can pick up its third straight conference win at 4 p.m. Thursday in West Lafayette against Purdue.