Indiana women’s basketball won its season-opener against Butler University on Wednesday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, with graduate student guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary leading the way to the 86-63 victory.
“We had a couple really good things happen inside this game tonight,” head coach Teri Moren said in the postgame press conference. “But we know we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
Cardaño-Hillary put up 29 points and had a career-high seven 3-pointers on the night. She shot 11-12 from the field, missing one 3-point attempt.
Senior guard Grace Berger was one of four Hoosiers to shoot for double digits, scoring 18 points. She became the 29th Hoosier to join the 1,000 points club on her second shot of the night.
“Grace Berger is Grace Berger,” Moren said.
Indiana seized momentum entering the third quarter up 43-32, maintaining a dominant lead that didn’t fall below nine points. The team shot 52%, had 24 assists, 32 rebounds and was 8-8 from the free throw line.
“We will give up a good shot for a great shot, and that’s what I like about this team,” Moren said. “They’re a bunch of unselfish kids.”
The Bulldogs kept up with the Hoosiers through the first quarter and took the lead for twenty seconds in the beginning of the second. However, by the middle of the second quarter, the Hoosiers found their rhythm and didn’t look back.
Indiana wasn’t at its sharpest defensively, providing open lanes to the basket for Butler. Indiana’s defenders could not stop charges from players like freshman forward Alex Richard and freshman guard Zoe Jackson, who led Butler with 20 and 18 points, respectively.
“They challenged us on the low block, and that was probably the biggest disappointment,” Moren said of Butler’s offense. “I felt like our post players, on a scale of 1 to 10, were about four tonight defensively.”
Butler put pressure on Indiana’s offense, keeping the team from driving to the net and forcing them to work from outside the 3-point line. Graduate student guard Ali Patberg didn’t score until the 12th minute and finished the game with only six points.
While Patberg went 2-10 and 0-6 from the 3-point line, she led the team with 10 assists. Five of Cardaño-Hillary’s 3-pointers came off assists from Patberg. Out of everyone in the game, Moren said she is most proud of Patberg.
“That’s such a great lesson for your players,” she said. “Some nights when your shot’s not falling there are other ways you can help your team win, and she’s a great example tonight for all of our team.”
Despite the match being at Butler’s home court, Indiana fans still showed up. Streaks of crimson stuck out among the Butler blue, something the Indiana players were grateful for.
“It just shows the excitement from last season,” Berger said. “How excited our fans are to get back in the stands and how excited they are about our women’s basketball program in general.”
Despite the win, head coach Teri Moren said she knows there is a lot of work for her team to do.
“We’ve got to get back to Bloomington and between now and Sunday, we’ve got to get a whole lot better defensively,” she said.
Indiana returns to Bloomington to face No. 13 Kentucky in its home-opener at 5 p.m. Sunday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.