No. 4 seed IU women’s basketball has made history again in the NCAA tournament after upsetting No. 1 seed North Carolina State University 73-70 Saturday to bring IU to their first Elite Eight appearance in program history.
Shots failed to fall for IU at the start of the game as senior guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary went 0-2 from the arc and junior forward Aleksa Gulbe missed another 3-pointer, allowing NC State sophomore forward Jada Boyd to put her team up 7-0. But falling behind is something head coach Teri Moren said her team is used to.
“We have played from behind a lot of times,” Moren said at a postgame press conference. “ We understand the game is long and that you have to just keep chipping away, get great possessions offensively and then do what we have to defensively to get stops.”
A steal and breakaway layup from Cardaño-Hillary along with an offensive rebound to draw an and-1 from Gulbe snapped IU out of its scoring drought to shorten NC State’s lead to two. Sophomore forward Mackenzie Holmes tied the game with a roll-back layup, but NC State's 3-point shooting put the team back in front again.
Senior guard Ali Patberg knew the Wolfpack’s ability to keep taking control of the game meant her team would have to keep grinding.
“Coming into the game, I told the team before, it was going to be one possession at a time, one stop at a time, one basket at a time, and we did that,” Patberg said. “We did not panic when they made a run at the beginning of the game. We knew they were a great team. We just had an answer.”
NC State continued to show its range of 3-point shooters as four of their five starters hit a 3-pointer, going 4-4 from the arc. But a 3-pointer from Patberg ended the first quarter, cutting the Wolfpack’s lead to 22-14.
The Hoosiers’ defense in the second quarter hurt the Wolfpack’s production on offense after the Hoosiers caused 6 turnovers in the second quarter alone, 11 total in the half. A steal from Cardaño-Hillary with Holmes finishing on the boards gave IU a 34-33 lead going into halftime.
“They were the number one seed for a reason, but we were going to be tougher and grittier,” Patberg said. “I don’t think they expected that. We put them on their heels, and we just kept going.”
Gaining momentum from stealing the lead before the half, IU outscored NC State 8-2 at the beginning of the third quarter. After a fastbreak layup that drew an and-1 from Patberg and put IU up 43-35, NC State called a timeout to regroup.
Berger, with help from Cardaño-Hillary, helped extend IU’s lead after she rebounded and pushed the ball to Cardaño-Hillary who also drew an and-1 on a fast break layup. This brought IU’s lead to 56-42. IU ended the third quarter with a 10-point lead at 58-48.
The fourth quarter saw multiple troubles for the Hoosiers, who started with a 2 minute scoring drought and then had to sit Holmes after she drew four fouls. Holmes would later foul out with just over 3:20 remaining while IU’s lead dwindled to 68-60.
NC State took advantage of IU losing Holmes and went on a 8-0 run, ending up 2 points from IU’s lead. However, the Hoosiers sealed the deal with late free throws and ended with balanced, double-digit scoring from all five starters to keep them dancing in the tournament and into the Elite Eight on Monday for the first time in program history.
“This is a dream to play for Indiana,” Patberg said, teary eyed. “I grew up right down the road. I’m a Hoosier. This means the world to me.”