While the second game in the NCAA Tournament for 4-seed IU women’s basketball was an all-around win, junior guard Grace Berger made a difference across every aspect of the game herself. Berger led her teammates to IU’s first program sweet sixteen appearance with a 70-48 win over 12-seed Belmont University on Wednesday.
“There is a lot of excitement in the locker room,” Berger said after the game. “Any time you are the first team to do stuff in your program it’s a big deal and that’s why we all came to Indiana because we all believed in coach and her vision for the program.”
Berger looked calm and collected the entire game as she found the basket with her jumpers, performed on her free throws, pressured Belmont’s guards and helped IU’s overall ball movement.
From the start of the game, the Hoosiers’ pace was fast and ball movement was stealthy, but the Hoosiers initially struggled to pull away from the Bruins, who kept up with their opponents rhythm.
However, IU started to pull away in the second quarter as Berger started to heat up. Berger led the quarter with 6 points and had one steal.
“I am an upperclassman now, and I am someone that I hope my team can depend on me to be solid night in and night out,” Berger said. “I just tried to be a leader for my team and just be under control when they were pressing us.”
Berger carried her leadership into the second half as the Hoosiers commanded the court alongside her. Belmont’s guards started to feel the pressure from Berger, who added two more steals to her stats. Aggression on the ball went her way, as she drew fouls from her opponents, sending her to the free-throw line multiple times where she hit all but one free throw in the third quarter.
Berger also mixed in a few rebounds, missing a field goal before picking up her own rolling rebound to sink a jumper. By the end of the third quarter, Berger’s well-roundedness was apparent as she put up 15 points, five rebounds and three steals.
“When you watch Grace, there are a few things that you figure out quickly,” head coach Teri Moren said in a press conference after the game. “One, she is an exceptional ball handler. Two, that she is exceptional at midrange. The thing that I love the most about Grace Berger is how competitive she is.”
Moren knew what Berger was going to mean to the team when Berger called her accepting an offer to come play for IU, Moren said. She said she knew Berger was going to take this team to new heights, which is what Berger did Wednesday.
Although Berger led the Hoosiers with 17 points and three assists while adding six rebounds and shooting 5-6 from the free-throw line, she is not someone to take credit for the win.
“I have just loved the confidence that these guys are playing with,” Moren said. “It is amazing what can happen when no one cares who gets the credit. This is what makes the team so special. They just don’t care how we win, who scores, who is going to guard, who’s going to get the rebound, who is going to fill the stats sheet with assists. It hasn’t mattered.”