Playing off a loss and without one of its most important starters, IU women’s basketball had its fair share of challenges to overcome Thursday on the road against Penn State.
In Monday’s loss to No. 12 Maryland, IU’s first of the Big Ten season, senior guard Jaelynn Penn left the game with an ankle injury at the end of the third quarter. Penn had made 111 consecutive starts for the Hoosiers dating back to her freshman year, but sat out tonight with junior Nicole Cardaño-Hillary starting in her place.
IU struggled with Penn State early on and even fell behind in the first quarter, but the Hoosiers rallied and pulled away late with an 85-64 win to avoid a second-straight conference loss.
“We’re so talented in so many ways and when we move the ball, we’re all aggressive, it’s fun to play like that with one another,” senior guard Ali Patberg said. “Tonight was a lot of fun.”
Patberg opened up the game’s scoring with a 3-pointer just 13 seconds into the game before IU jumped out to an early 9-2 lead. However, a 10-0 run from the Lady Lions saw that lead vanish.
Patberg and sophomore Mackenzie Holmes helped turn things back around as the Hoosiers went up 19-16 through one quarter, and the senior’s 13 points at halftime were a team high.
“I’m really happy with the way [Patberg] responded, especially after Monday night because I thought she was pretty quiet,” IU head coach Teri Moren said. “We needed her to, one, show some leadership but also just score and be aggressive tonight offensively.”
With Cardaño-Hillary temporarily taking over the starting point guard position, Moren said it was easy to have Patberg play off the ball more and still find ways to contribute offensively. Patberg was by far the most effective Hoosier from 3-point range, going 3-for-5 from deep, and her midrange game freed up open looks for her teammates later on.
Patberg also chipped in six assists, but junior guard Grace Berger led the team with 12. As a team, IU combined for an impressive 24 assists and allowed just two turnovers.
“That is sharing the sugar and taking care of it,” Moren said of her team’s assist-to-turnover ratio.
After a first half which saw Patberg and Holmes do most of the heavy lifting, the Hoosiers countered with a much more collective effort in the second half.
Patberg and Holmes still managed to finish with season-high point totals scoring 24 and 27, respectively, but Berger stole the show in the third and fourth quarters. After acting as more of a facilitator with just 2 points in the first half, Berger found her rhythm shooting the ball down the stretch and ultimately finished with her second career triple-double – making her the only player in the country to do that twice this season.
“Early on I think I wasn’t hitting shots, so my mindset kind of transitioned to getting Ali [Patberg], who was hot, shots,” Berger said. “My teammates found me and got me some easy looks. I kind of got in a roll there a little bit, got some open looks and was able to knock them down.”
Despite leading by just 3 points after each of the first two quarters, the Hoosiers outscored the Lady Lions by 18 points in the second half to run away with the win. IU will return to Bloomington from its two-game road trip with a chance for another win at 4 p.m. Sunday against Wisconsin.