When freshman forward Kiandra Browne, whose teammates call her “KB”, entered Sunday’s game for the first time, IU was trailing 16-6.
Michigan State was in complete control, knocking down six of their first seven shots including 6 points from junior forward Alicia Smith. The Hoosiers were playing decent defense, but the Spartans countered with superior offense.
They needed some “juice” to pump themselves up, as head coach Teri Moren calls it.
Within her first two minutes, Browne absorbed contact twice and drew two charges. Not only did it slow down the high-flying Spartan offense, but it energized her team by doing the dirty work.
“Just a selfless young lady that wants to help her team in any way she can,” Moren said about Browne. “She’s terrific when she’s on the bench with her energy, she’s terrific on the floor with her energy.”
Browne’s intensity was present the rest of the afternoon as IU defeated Michigan State 79-67 for the 800th win in the program’s history.
After Thursday’s loss against Ohio State, the players were obviously disappointed. They were in position to win, but senior guard Ali Patberg said the team’s spirit dwindled down the stretch when shots began to rim out.
With yesterday’s game having the feeling of a must-win game, she didn’t want the Hoosiers to duplicate their previous performance. Patberg took the initiative and challenged Browne, knowing that she is one of her most upbeat teammates, to bring energy into the largely empty arena for 40 minutes.
“I told her today, ‘if you’re on the floor or off the floor, we need you to bring energy constantly,’” Patberg said. “Energy is contagious.”
Browne received the message and responded tremendously to help her team come back.
Moren didn’t know of this conversation until after the game, but it didn’t surprise her that Patberg was the one to take the initiative.
“She has a really good feel and a really good pulse on her teammates and what they bring,” Moren said.
It feels poetic for this exchange between Patberg and Browne to have occurred on the program’s 800th win. Encounters like that have led the program to succeed in all 47 years, but in recent memory specifically.
There’s a very obvious, encouraging culture that has been developed by Moren and her coaching staff over the past seven years.
“When I was getting recruited here and came on a visit, Ali told me that we're doing something really special here,” sophomore forward Mackenzie Holmes said. “I knew at that point that I wanted to be a part of that.”
Building the culture is step one, but it won’t last unless the team reaches its goals of regular season and tournament success.
Two years ago, IU matched its longest run in the NCAA tournament with a first round victory over a tough Texas Tech squad. Last season, they would have been comfortably in the dance with a solid chance of hosting the first two rounds as a top-4 seed if not for the pandemic bringing the season to a halt.
Now, they have similar aspirations. The Hoosiers are one conference loss behind the leaders of the Big Ten with blemishes only at the hands of currently ranked teams.
Their future success starts with relentless energy from seniors like Ali Patberg to freshmen like Kiandra Browne. It has been the recipe for success in the last 800 victories, and it will continue to be for the following 800 as well.
“Every girl’s dream in Indiana is to play for IU,” Patberg said. “I was that girl, and I’m thankful every morning that I get the chance and the opportunity to play for this team.”