No. 5 Indiana women’s basketball played its first game in fan-filled Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall since Jan. 13 on Sunday, beating in-state rival Purdue 64-57. The game was fast-paced, energetic and full of intensity as both teams fought for 40 minutes.
“We knew they were not going to go away,” head coach Teri Moren said of Purdue. “We kept talking to our kids about that every timeout. It doesn’t matter what the score looks like, there’s still enough firepower over there.”
The Hoosiers led by as many as 19 points in the third quarter, but turnover troubles plagued them as the fourth quarter began, which allowed the Boilermakers to regain their footing and cut into their deficit. Six of the Hoosiers’ 12 turnovers came in the fourth quarter alone.
“It just seemed like everything we had done in the third (quarter) that gave us some level of success we stopped doing,” Moren said.
Though Purdue narrowed Indiana’s lead in the final 10 minutes, Indiana pulled out a win largely due to efforts from graduate student guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary and senior guard Grace Berger. The two combined for 8 of Indiana’s 12 fourth-quarter points, and all 4 of Berger’s points came from free throws.
Cardaño-Hillary, who didn’t play against in Indiana’s first matchup with Purdue on Jan. 16 due to COVID-19, led all scorers Sunday afternoon with 19 points, good for a new career-high in Big Ten play. She added seven rebounds and two steals and was the only player on either team to play all 40 minutes.
“It’s about doing my job,” Cardaño-Hillary said. “My coaches challenge me, and I love a good challenge.”
Three other Hoosiers also scored in double-digits to close out the game. Berger came second to Cardaño-Hillary with 17 points, followed by 11-point performances from both senior forward Aleksa Gulbe and sophomore guard Chloe Moore-McNeil.
Moore-McNeil went 2-4 from beyond the arc and led Indiana with 10 rebounds, earning her first career double-double. Moren said she’s called upon Moore-McNeil and other Indiana bench players more routinely in high-intensity moments.
“All of them are super locked in on what we have to do in order to win the game,” Moren said. “Give those kids credit for being ready. I do think it’s going to serve us well down the stretch.”
Junior guard Grace Waggoner also saw important minutes against Purdue. In her seven total minutes of play, Waggoner worked hard to provide more energy on the defensive side of the ball of Indiana’s play.
“We know the potential in what Chloe can bring to our team, and it’s just so exciting for you guys to see it as well,” Cardaño-Hillary said. “Grace as well. She came in and had some incredible moments that really gave us energy.”
Graduate student guard Ali Patberg only scored 2 points but was given the assignment of guarding Purdue’s top perimeter player in sophomore guard Madison Layden. Layden, who entered the game averaging 12.6 points per game, did not score a single point on an 0-7 mark from the field and gave up three turnovers.
“We put Ali Patberg on the best perimeter player of the opposing team,” Moren said. “That says that we trust Ali to understand tendencies, we trust Ali to be where she needs to be, we trust Ali to do her job. And I thought she was great this afternoon defensively for us.”
The Hoosiers forced 18 turnovers and 20 personal fouls from the Boilermakers, while only giving up 12 turnovers and seven personal fouls themselves.
Assembly Hall saw a record number of fans—totaling at 7,891—at Sunday afternoon’s matchup according to Indiana Athletics. That number marked the highest crowd of the 2021-22 season at an Indiana women’s basketball game, and the fifth-largest crowd in program history.
“The energy that the fans bring definitely helps,” Cardaño-Hillary said. “When we do get in the lows the fans bring us back up and I’m just so grateful to have that.”
Indiana will play its next game without a strong Hoosier fanbase, as the team is set to travel to Champaign, Illinois. Illinois is 1-6 in conference play following a 70-62 loss to Wisconsin on Sunday.
The Hoosiers and Fighting Illini will face off at 8 p.m. Wednesday, and the game will be broadcast on BTN+.