No. 7 Indiana women’s basketball entered its Wednesday night matchup against Illinois with all the odds in its favor.
Before the game, Indiana had just one in-conference loss, while Illinois had only one in-conference win. Indiana held opponents to below 60 points per game on average. Illinois allowed upwards of 70.
There wasn’t much question among fans as to whether or not Indiana would win, but curiosity remained surrounding who the breakout player of the game would be. Wednesday night, that player was graduate student guard Ali Patberg.
Patberg, who has struggled offensively as of late, maintained a dominant offensive presence for the 30 minutes she was on the court. She recorded a new season-high of 26 points and, in doing so, became the 9th highest scorer overall in Indiana women’s basketball program history.
21 of Patberg’s points came in the first half alone.
“No one has more confidence in Ali Patberg than our staff and her teammates,” head coach Teri Moren said. “Every game, we expect Ali to be a force for us offensively.”
With Patberg’s help, Indiana beat Illinois 93-61 in a largely uneventful game. Indiana shot 58% from field goal range and 22% beyond the arc. Illinois went 41% from field goal range and 22% from three-point range with only two made three-pointers.
Patberg led all scorers and set another season-high with nine attempted 3-pointers. She knocked down four to tie her season-high from a win against Wisconsin on Jan. 5, when she shot 4-5 from 3-point range.
In the Hoosiers’ last three games, Patberg only scored one 3-pointer in nine attempts. In Sunday’s win over Purdue, she scored only two total points in the 37 minutes she played and attempted three shots.
Patberg also had 15 shot attempts from field goal range against Illinois to lead all shooters. No other player attempted more than four 3-pointers.
“(Patberg) came out tonight and was assertive,” Moren said. “She only gave up — or decided not to take — one or two of those, (and) normally we’re over there saying, ‘Here’s Ali passing up another shot.’”
Moren said the Hoosiers were able to get into an early flow offensively and quickly saw most of their shots fall. The Hoosiers went on a 6-0 run to begin the game, capped off by a jumper from Patberg. From then on, she continued to take shots and seemed comfortable on both ends of the court.
“I put in a lot of work, and my coaches are confident in me,” Patberg said. “(I) went out tonight and was focusing on having fun and just playing the game, playing to win.”
Moren said she was pleased with Patberg’s offensive efforts Wednesday night and expects that kind of production from her in every game.
“She’s too good of a shooter, she works too hard,” Moren said. “Ali Patberg should never, ever pass up an open shot.”
Patberg also contributed defensively, guarding the top scorer for the Fighting Illini, freshman guard Aaliyah Nye. Nye, who entered the game averaging 11.2 points and 2.5 3-pointers per game, only scored 9 points and made one 3-pointer.
Moren praised sophomore guard Chloe Moore-McNeil for her efforts guarding Nye as well, noting her calm demeanor. Moren said Moore-McNeil’s defensive success came as no surprise to her.
Moore-McNeil, who recorded her first career double-double against Purdue on Sunday, also scored 9 points and had one 3-pointer.
Another breakout player off the bench for the Hoosiers came in the form of freshman guard Kaitlin Peterson, who set a new career-high of 11 points. 9 of those points came from 3-pointers, of which Peterson went 3-4 on.
“My coaches and teammates just always tell me to be ready whenever I get in,” Peterson said about where her confidence comes from. “I just try to stay ready and play hard whenever I’m in.”
Indiana has a quick turnaround and will face Michigan State at 3:00 p.m. Saturday in a return to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Michigan State is 6-5 in Big Ten play and will face No. 4 Michigan Thursday night before traveling to Bloomington.