No. 12 Indiana (14-2, 4-0) remains undefeated after another dominating performance Thursday, this time against its arch rival Purdue (11-5, 2-2), 66-48. Indiana is 4-0 in the Big Ten for the first time in program history, and have won each game by double digits.
Ali Patberg continues to lead the Hoosiers in Big Ten play. Just a day after being named to the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25, Patberg scored 18 points, just above her conference average of 17 per game.
“Since Christmas, Ali has played at another level,” Teri Moren said.
The story wasn’t about the offensive end, however. It was all about Indiana’s stifling defense, holding Purdue to six points in the first quarter and 10 in the second. Purdue was shooting just 26 percent from the field at halftime and Indiana led 34-16 at the break.
Purdue shot the ball better in the second half, above 50 percent from the floor, but the game was out of reach for basically the entire half. Purdue finished shooting 38 percent from the field. After shooting 0-for-8 from three in the first half, Purdue finished just 2-for-13. That’s a Purdue team that was shooting over 35 percent from long range on the season.
“I thought defensively, tonight, we were terrific,” Moren said. “We didn’t give Purdue anything easy.”
Continuing on the theme of defense, Indiana shut down the playmakers from Purdue. Karissa McLaughlin, the Boilermakers’ leading scorer at 12.8 points per game, was held to six points and missed all five 3-point attempts. Dominique Oden, another dynamic guard who averages 11.5 points per game, was held to six points and just four field goal attempts.
The Hoosiers forced 21 Purdue turnovers. Purdue has struggled with turnovers all season, and Indiana made them pay. Indiana scored 26 points off the 21 Boilermaker turnovers.
Offensively, it was a balanced attack outside of Patberg’s 18 points. Aleksa Gulbe scored 10 points and added eight rebounds. Brenna Wise added nine, Jaelynn Penn had eight, and Grace Berger scored seven points on an off night. Berger was just 1-for-11 from the field.
It’s certainly concerning to see this type of shooting night from Berger, but it’s also a positive to see the team able to rally and still win by 18 on a night where one of its leading scorers makes just one shot.
The extra pass ? pic.twitter.com/YBaYUcjLQd
— Indiana Women’s Basketball (@IndianaWBB) January 10, 2020
If you’re nit-picking this performance, Indiana had yet another slow start. The Hoosiers trailed 4-0 early and struggled to get good looks in the first few minutes. Slow starts have been a bit of an issue for Indiana, but the strength of schedule has helped the team overcome these starts.
“I was frustrated down the stretch,” Moren said. “I didn’t think we finished the game the way we wanted to. The one three we allowed is unacceptable to us. And we have to get off to faster starts.”
Indiana was only 4-for-15 from beyond the arc, well below its season percentage of 33 percent.
The Hoosiers are starting to prove they are the cream of the crop in the Big Ten. Maryland, the other top-20 team in the conference, just lost at Northwestern by over 20, then Northwestern lost to Iowa at home by nearly 30.
The Big Ten has a lot of good teams, but not many great teams. Indiana has gone from the hunter to the hunted quickly, and we’ll see how the Hoosiers respond to that new position in the conference when they make some road trips coming up to Iowa and Maryland.
“Winning is really fun,” Patberg said. “We’re winning the right way. We’re all contributing. We want each other to do well.”
For now, it’s smooth sailing for Indiana. Four straight conference wins by double digits and its highest ranking in the AP Poll in school history. Next up, a road trip to Iowa on Sunday.