Senior Night usually marks the final home game for the seniors on the No. 22 Indiana women’s basketball team. But with high hopes for the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, that was not the mindset of Brenna Wise on her senior night, finishing with three points, eight rebounds and a signature charge taken.
“[Wise] has given us everything that she has had,” head coach Teri Moren said. “But the legacy that will be Brenna Wise will be [that] she to me is a once in a lifetime type of kid that you get the pleasure of coaching.”
With an 81-53 victory over Nebraska, Indiana has set a program record with 22 wins and clinched the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament beginning on March 4. This means the Hoosiers have earned a double bye and will play in the 2:30 p.m. game on March 6.
While Thursday was the final home game on the schedule, Brenna Wise is not ready to call this her final home game. According to Charlie Creme’s Bracketology, Indiana is currently a five seed, but if the Hoosiers can carry momentum from Thursday’s victory, a run to finish the season might mean more games in Assembly Hall.
In the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, the top four seeds in each regional host the first two rounds of the tournament. Moving forward, Wise will use this as motivation for the final stretch of games leading up to the NCAA Tournament.
“Deep down inside I don’t believe that tonight is the last night I will play in Assembly Hall,” Wise said. “I am still holding on to that and working on that. If it is, I am forever grateful and will never forget this night, but it will continue to be the driver over the next 10 days.”
On Thursday, the Hoosiers led for entire game and looked like a team poised for tournament run. Indiana began the third quarter on a 21-4 run and won the second half 48-26. Finishing games strong has been an issue at time for Moren’s team, but was quite the opposite Thursday. Ali Patberg scored 19 of her 26 points in the second half, putting any possibility of a Nebraska comeback out of question.
“I was just trying to be aggressive and attack the basket,” Patberg said. “Coach told me to be aggressive and that when I am aggressive, my teammates are more aggressive, so that’s what I did.”
Indiana’s second-half domination made it feel like early December in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers that ran teams out of the gym in nonconference play and the beginning of Big Ten play were back versus Nebraska. Patberg led the way, but it was Indiana’s depth that was revived in Thursday’s victory.
Four Hoosiers finished in double digits as Grace Berger scored 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists. The Cornhusker forwards had no answer for Mackenzie Holmes in the first half as the freshman finished with 11 points, six rebounds and two assists. Aleksa Gulbe finished with 11 points as well, and played great defense all night, holding Nebraska’s Ashtyn Veerbeek to just five points and two rebounds.
The way Indiana got out in transition was indicative of the style of play that got Indiana off to one of the best starts in program history. Eighteen fast-break points and 16 assists exceeded some of the goals Moren mentioned at the start of the season and are an obvious recipe to success moving forward.
Indiana’s next matchup is on March 1 against Michigan. A win in Ann Arbor plus a deep run in the Big Ten Tournament could propel the Hoosiers to the all-important four seed. It may be too early to tell, but Wise’s driving force to finish the season strong makes it a possibility.
“I am just forever grateful to even have the opportunity to play at Assembly Hall,” Wise said. “Every night I am going to leave it all out there. I always say that if Assembly Hall could talk, oh the stories it would tell.”