With 7:43 left to play, IU freshman Grace Berger was fouled going to the basket with the Hoosiers down three to the No. 10 Iowa Hawkeyes.
It was a big moment in the game. Indiana had fended off a 16-point deficit and the Hoosiers had a chance to keep cutting it down. After the whistle blew, Berger was swarmed by her teammates, including Ali Patberg who came running over pumping up her teammates. When Patberg was done yelling at the calm Berger, she had two words for her.
It was moments like these that Indiana missed when Patberg was out for the previous three games, all losses: The fiery competitor and the calming leader. Her presence on the floor for the first time since February 6 led Indiana to an upset win over Iowa, 75-73.
Welcome back Ali Patberg! The redshirt junior is back from a shoulder injury and making an instant impact, including a big three at the end of the half. Iowa leads #iuwbb 38-30 at the break. pic.twitter.com/L0fyDCKYi8
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) February 22, 2019
“That’s our captain on the floor,” IU forward Brenna Wise said. “It was comforting to have her out there just seeing her compete again. She’s a leader and she gets us in our positions. She was leading off the floor prior to the game, it was nice having her back.”
Patberg’s presence on the floor for Indiana didn’t go unnoticed by any means. She finished with 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting and made six 3-pointers. Her seven assists was also a team high. Prior to her injury, which had kept her out the previous three games, she had gone through her ups and downs. She had 22 in the win over Nebraska, but that was her first 20-plus point performance since the Northwestern loss on January 16.
Thursday’s performance was, in a sense, overdue from Patberg. When Indiana needed her most, she delivered. And it helped the Hoosiers stave off a potential five-game losing streak.
“We’re a different team when she’s out there,” IU coach Teri Moren said. “Not only because she plays the most important position on the floor, but she gives us another scorer, another outside threat. She’s a true competitor. She’s a connector, she keeps us all connected.”
— Indiana On BTN (@IndianaOnBTN) February 22, 2019
But in the first half, the Hoosiers were doing anything but connecting on their shots. Indiana shot an abysmal 33 percent from the floor and 25 percent from deep. Patberg was just 3-of-8, but her two 3-pointers helped keep them in the game as they trailed by just eight at halftime.
Still, there was a confidence amongst the group that they would get it done, and it all came from a halftime speech.
“Coach walked into the locker room at halftime and said, ‘whatever shot you took in the first half, forget about it because I feel confident it’s going in in the second half,’” Wise said. “Just to have that confidence on the sideline gives you great confidence to step up and shoot your shot.”
TIE GAME! pic.twitter.com/x9uOg11TXr
— Indiana Women’s Basketball (@IndianaWBB) February 22, 2019
But when it came down to it in the second half, Indiana was 8-of-13 from deep and shot 58 percent overall. It was a complete 180 from what transpired in the first 20 minutes. Wise came on and finished with a team high 24 points and Bendu Yeaney, who barely played in the fourth quarter, hit the game winner with three seconds left.
And then it was Patberg, with possibly the biggest smile on the court, rushing up to her teammates again with joy. Indiana’s captain was back.
“[She] played like she always does,” Wise said. “That’s Ali Patberg.”