With just over three minutes left in the third quarter, Indiana women’s basketball graduate student guard Ali Patberg lofted an entry pass to senior forward Aleksa Gulbe. As the help defense converged, Gulbe tipped the ball mid-flight to sophomore forward Kiandra Browne, who calmly converted the wide-open layup.
After the game, Patberg said her entry pass was off-target because of miscommunication, but Gulbe managed to improvise the tip to Browne.
“I want to say she did that on purpose and just had the awareness,” Patberg said. “The ball was really high. It was a bad pass, and she did a great job of tapping it to KB. So we’ll say that it was on purpose.”
The play accounted for just two of No. 6 Indiana’s 34 points in the paint as it dominated the interior in its 76-53 win over Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin, on Sunday.
The Badgers only managed 20 points in the paint themselves, with just 4 points scored in the first half while the game was still within reach. Indiana head coach Teri Moren was pleased with her team’s points inside and said it executed the game plan.
“That’s how you score points in the paint: by running, getting early touches, getting paint touches with our guards,” Moren said. “I think that’s why you see the number (of paint points) being what it is.”
Junior forward Mackenzie Holmes led Indiana in the paint. Prior to Wednesday’s game, Holmes had been named to the midseason top-25 watch list for the Wooden Award — given to college basketball’s best player at the end of the season. She justified her inclusion on the list in Indiana’s game against Wisconsin with 16 points, most of which came inside.
Moren complimented Holmes’ steadiness on the inside and said the Hoosiers benefit from it because the forward is an easy target for entry passes down low and an accurate shooter in the paint.
“I liked Mack, I thought she was pretty patient,” Moren said. “We knew they were going to double her anytime she caught it, and that’s what they did, but I thought she did a good job of getting the ball out of the double. Then there were moments, especially in the second half, where we found her and she had quick scores and got her in transition.”
In addition to her scoring, Holmes also secured eight rebounds and tied for a team-high in the category with senior guard Grace Berger. Indiana pulled down 36 total rebounds to Wisconsin’s 25, which gave Indiana extra possessions and a firmer grasp on victory.
The Hoosiers also won the battle on the offensive glass, attaining a 10-6 advantage over the Badgers in second-chance opportunities. Three of Kiandra Browne’s four rebounds were on the offensive end, including the scoop-up of the miss that would lead to Gulbe’s tip-assist.
Moren said a big part of Indiana’s success comes from how it prepares and adapts, as well as the team’s overall competitiveness.
“They want to win, they want to be successful and they’re tough-minded kids,” Moren said.
With the win, Indiana moves to 12-2 overall and 4-0 in Big Ten play. Indiana will play next at 6 p.m. on Jan. 13 against Nebraska in Bloomington.