Indiana Daily Student

Cardaño-Hillary, Patberg respond to even season series with Ohio State

<p>Redshirt senior guard Ali Patberg follows through her shot Feb. 18 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.</p>

Redshirt senior guard Ali Patberg follows through her shot Feb. 18 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

In its most recent loss Jan. 28 to then-No. 14 Ohio State, the IU women’s basketball guards faltered down the stretch. Seniors Jaelynn Penn and Ali Patberg shot a combined 6-of-29 from the field, and the team was a collective 1-of-10 from 3-point territory in the 78-70 loss.

The Hoosiers have won seven consecutive games since then, including a rematch Saturday with the Buckeyes they won 87-75. 

Penn hasn’t played since opting out ahead of the Feb. 7 win over Iowa, but senior transfer Nicole Cardaño-Hillary has filled in for her gracefully ever since. Despite fouling out with just over one minute to play against the Buckeyes, Cardaño-Hillary dropped in arguably her best all-around performance as a Hoosier – and it came on her 22nd birthday.

In her first double-double of her IU career, Cardaño-Hillary finished with 16 points and a team-high 11 rebounds.

“She plays her heart out,” Patberg said of Cardaño-Hillary. “She’s super competitive, I mean she had 11 rebounds and she’s 5’6,” so that just shows you her heart and her toughness and her will to win.”

It wasn’t just scoring and rebounding where Cardaño-Hillary made her mark Saturday, but also her on-ball defending that helped lead the Hoosiers to victory.

IU head coach Teri Moren said she was reluctant to play her earlier this season because of her defense, and Cardaño-Hillary has since evolved into one of the team’s peskier defenders with her recent uptick in playing time. 

Pulling down a team-high in rebounds as an undersized guard and staying aggressive offensively are impressive on their own, but Cardaño-Hillary backs it up with endurance to be able to affect the game on both ends of the floor. 

“She’s just been so good at playing other teams’ point guards and making them uncomfortable,” Moren said. “She is comfortable, but I think she’s really embraced this idea because she’s having success, and because of it our team’s having success in the pressure that she’s providing on the ball.”

Patberg finished with 19 points and was aggressive enough with the ball to get to the free-throw line a game-high 10 times. She missed all three attempts in the third quarter when she drew a foul on a 3-point attempt but responded the next quarter with two makes to tie the game at 70-70.

Junior forward Aleksa Gulbe netted a go-ahead jumper the ensuing possession before Cardaño-Hillary expanded IU’s lead and rattled home her third 3-pointer of the afternoon, a shot that Moren said couldn’t have been timelier. 

“It says a lot about those kids,” Moren said of their composure down the stretch. “They love, they’re passionate about this game, and they love to figure out how they can win and how they can be successful doing it together.”

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