On a day where many of her teammates struggled shooting the ball, graduate student guard Ali Patberg stepped up to lead No. 14 Indiana women’s basketball to a 66-54 win over Rutgers on Thursday in Indianapolis. Patberg scored a game-high 19 points to help Indiana advance to the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals.
Through the first seven minutes of the game, Patberg struggled, turning the ball over and missing her first shot — a well-contested layup. The early bad pass was her only turnover of the game.
With three minutes left in the first quarter, Patberg caught a pass from graduate student guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary behind the 3-point line and nailed the jumper to get her scoring started.
Minutes later, with the final seconds of the first quarter winding down, senior guard Grace Berger found Patberg in the corner for another 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded to give the Hoosiers a 16-10 lead going into the second quarter.
In the second quarter, Patberg hit another 3-pointer for her only points of the period, as Indiana was unable to pull away and Rutgers knocked down timely shots to stay within striking distance.
“I thought our kids were terrific, especially in the second half,” head coach Teri Moren said. “It probably took us the whole first half to just settle in and get some rhythm.”
After the back-and-forth first half, Indiana used a strong third quarter to add to its lead and gain control of the game. Patberg scored her first points of the second half on a mid-range jumper on Indiana’s first offensive possession out of the halftime break. Indiana outscored Rutgers by 5 points in the third quarter and was led by 7 points from Patberg, its seventh-year senior.
Patberg’s scoring became less necessary as the fourth quarter progressed once Indiana had the win in its grasp, but she still hit a fifth 3-pointer to set a season-high. The last time Patberg hit five 3-pointers in a game was against Wisconsin last season.
Patberg’s success in Indianapolis is not new. Now in her fourth Big Ten Tournament, she has excelled in her previous three conference tournaments, as well as in high school games in Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
“I love playing here,” Patberg said. “I played here multiple times before college, and I’m just trying to go out there and do everything I need to do to help our team win.”
Outside of shooting the ball well, Patberg played strong defense throughout the game and pulled down five rebounds, tied for Indiana’s second-most. Patberg also distributed the ball well as she and Cardaño-Hillary led Indiana in assists.
“You know, Grace (Berger) and AP both having 6 assists — together 12 of our 18,” Moren said. “Which is sharing the sugar, as we like to say it around our program.”
Thursday’s win is an important one for Indiana, as the team entered the Big Ten Tournament having lost four of its last five regular-season games.
“It just felt great for the whole team just to play well,” Patberg said. “I think we gained a lot of confidence tonight. We're clicking on defense and offense, so it was a great win for us.”
With the win Thursday, Indiana advances to face No. 11 Maryland — the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament — in the quarterfinals Friday. Indiana split the season series 1-1 against Maryland, with each team winning at home.