Indiana women’s basketball lost 69-66 to No. 7 Stanford, the reigning NCAA champions, for Indiana’s first loss of the season Thursday afternoon in Nassau, Bahamas. Despite some key 3-pointers and three players scoring in double-digits, the team struggled with rebounding and shooting overall.
“I’m disappointed for our group,” head coach Teri Moren said. “As they always do, they left everything they had on a day they didn’t shoot the ball very well.”
Graduate student guard Ali Patberg led the way for the Hoosiers, coming to life in the second half to score 15 of her team-high 19 points after the halftime break to keep them within fighting distance. With four seconds remaining in the game, Patberg took a 3-point shot that would have given Indiana the lead, but it fell short.
Graduate student guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary and senior guard Grace Berger also scored in the double-digits, with 18 and 12 points, respectively. Berger led the team with seven assists.
“I think we got some really good looks,” Moren said. “Grace Berger got a lot of really good looks.”
Indiana finished the game shooting 32% and was unable to push through the Stanford defenders to see its shots fall. However, Indiana held Stanford to 29-70 shooting, something Moren said she was pleased with.
“I’m really pleased with the way we guarded today,” she said. “We made improvements in that area, but there’s going to be more to be made.”
Three of Indiana’s starters, who typically are leading point scorers, struggled against the Stanford defense. Both starting forwards senior Aleksa Gulbe and junior Mackenzie Holmes were held to under 10 points.
“Mackenzie was really swallowed up,” Moren said. “She’s going to continue to be guarded with double coverage and she has to get better.”
Moren also said Berger struggled. She missed two free throws that, if made, could have extended Indiana’s lead with under 10 seconds left in the game. She shot 4-19 in the game.
Stanford outrebounded 59-38 and pulled down 19 offensive rebounds over Indiana. Moren said the size of Stanford’s players was one of the major factors in those statistics.
The tallest Hoosiers on the court were Holmes and Gulbe, both at 6’3, while the Cardinal had junior forward Ashton Pretchel at 6’5 and sophomore forward Cameron Brink at 6’4.
“We told our kids that was the number one key on the board,” Moren said. “We didn’t do a good enough job and give Stanford credit for that.”
Brink posed a problem on both ends of the court, putting up career highs with 21 points and 22 rebounds. Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer attributed her success to the physicality of the game; Stanford finished with 17 personal fouls to Indiana’s 20.
Despite the loss, the Hoosiers are focused on taking more positives than negatives from the game and using the mistakes they made to further improve their play.
“Our toughness, our willingness to do whatever it took down the stretch,” Patberg said. “We still executed when we needed to.”
Moren echoed Patberg, saying Indiana’s performance was proof the team can compete with the best of the best — even when they are not at their peak performance level.
“If there’s a silver lining there, it’s that, that we can compete with anybody in the country,” Moren said. “That’s just a tough, tough group of women.”
Indiana faces the University of Miami at 8:30 p.m. Saturday in the Bahamas. The game will be broadcast on FloHoops.