4-seed IU women’s basketball took down 13-seed Virginia Commonwealth University in a 63-32 victory during the first round of the NCAA tournament. Offensive generosity in the second half ended with three starters in double digit points.
The Hoosiers opened the game with a 9-2 run against the Rams after junior guard Grace Berger put up a jumper and layup while senior guard Ali Patberg sealed the run with a 3-pointer, causing VCU to take a timeout.
While Berger and Patberg fired on offense, two blocks from sophomore forward Mackenzie Holmes and one block by junior forward Aleksa Gulbe kept VCU at bay as the Hoosiers stuffed any look their opponents had down low.
“We are going to win a lot of ball games particularly when we play as sound on defense as we did today,” head coach Teri Moren said after the game.
A last second jumper from VCU’s senior forward Samantha Robinson put IU’s lead at 16-11 at the end of the quarter. Berger accounted for 11 of the Hoosiers’ first quarter points.
“The midrange was open,” Berger said. “That’s my favorite shot, my go to shot. That is what I am most comfortable with, so if I have an open midrange shot I am going to take it. They were falling for me tonight.”
VCU started to close in on IU’s lead in the second quarter after a steal from VCU brought them within one point of the lead. A missed 3-pointer from freshman guard Chloe Moore-McNeil allowed the Rams to take a 17-16 lead. IU reclaimed the lead thanks to a 6-0 run at the end of the half as the score read 22-17.
IU saw its lead grow in the third quarter following offensive teamwork from four of its five starters.
“The first four minutes sets the tone for the rest of the half,” Berger said. “That was emphasized going into the game — the first four minutes of the quarter just going out and getting the momentum on our side and then not letting our foot off the pedal.”
Berger helped extend the Hoosiers’ lead with an and-1, giving IU a seven-point cushion. Gulbe sank a 3-pointer to bring the lead to 10 while Patberg dominated with her versatile shooting.
“It was really nice to see us hit some inside shots and hit some outside shots,” Berger said. “I think everyone got to see the ball go in a little bit. Hopefully that gives us individual confidence moving forward.”
Holmes also started to get touches in the paint, which was a challenge in the first half since VCU’s zone defense was closing off lanes to the basket. Outscoring the Rams 19-12 in the third quarter, the Hoosiers ended with a 41-29 lead.
Momentum started to dwindle for VCU in the last quarter, but not for IU, who took advantage of VCU’s lack of energy. Both Holmes and Gulbe were left wide open down low to give them easy layups and senior guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary finally earned her first points of the game with two free throws.
Berger led IU with 20 points with Patberg and Holmes following behind with 17 and 14 points.
“Certainly when we look down and there's three, four or five of our kids in double digits, that’s a good day for us,” Moren said.