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Defensive dominance leads Indiana to victory at Wisconsin, sets up rematch with Ohio State

A great defensive effort led the Hoosiers to a 77-49 win over Wisconsin at the Kohl Center Wednesday night. The No. 11 Hoosiers held the Badgers to the second-lowest point total they’ve held a team to this season, and Wisconsin looked like it had no answer for the stifling IU defense.

After a rough game Thursday night, Mackenzie Holmes seemed to have gotten her groove back, as she picked up 23 points and nine rebounds on the night. Nicole Cardano-Hillary had a big night on both ends, as she added 14 points along with some big steals to help extend the Hoosier lead down the stretch. For the defense, it was a team effort on that side of the ball.

“I think we all did a very good job,” Cardano-Hillary said. “We all were in each other’s gaps which helped. Getting up, pressuring them, and knowing my teammates had my back was really helpful as a mindset.”

Following a big win last Thursday against Michigan, IU got off to a slow start Wednesday night against the Badgers, as Wisconsin got out to a 5-0 run to start things off. But the Hoosiers would eventually find their groove, as they went on a 6-0 run themselves. Thanks to getting stops on the perimeter, Indiana was able to get more offense possessions and carve into the Wisconsin defense to score.

Second-chance points were a big reason Indiana was able to extend its lead, as the Badgers had nothing to do but foul the Hoosiers on the rebound. This helped Indiana get some more opportunities to score and keep a seven-point lead at the end of the first.

With Patberg in foul trouble early in the first, the rest of the five Hoosiers on the floor had to keep up the energy at the beginning of the second. With the dribble drive working so well for Indiana, this opened up some 3-point shots. Later in the second, the perimeter defense of IU continued to get steals and create some transition opportunities on offense from Patberg.

As good as the first half was for Indiana, the Hoosiers turned the ball over eight times in the first 20 minutes of play. Despite the turnovers, rebounding helped limit the Badgers offensive opportunities, as Indiana outrebounded Wisconsin 18 to 10 in the first half. Nonetheless, Indiana went into the locker room up 37-23 on the Badgers at the Kohl Center. 

As Patberg picked up her third foul, it was very promising to see Indiana move the ball around on offense the way they did. The Hoosier passing got Wisconsin tired on defense and eventually Indiana was able to find Aleksa Gulbe and Keyanna Warthen for some open shots.

Cardano-Hillary’s seven third-quarter points were huge in pushing the lead to 22 points, as Indiana outscored the Badgers 28-14 heading into the final quarter of play. With Cardano-Hillary’s excellent play in these past couple of games — she’s averaging 11.8 points per game in the past five contests — the team looks very dangerous heading into March.

“I couldn’t do it without my teammates,” Cardano-Hillary said. “They’ve been an incredible factor in helping me get comfortable and understand my role. So having them is what has really helped.”

Indiana looked like it could do whatever it wanted in the fourth quarter. Whether it be getting it inside, shooting 3s or getting steals, the Hoosiers completely dominated the final quarter of play. The strategy was to get it to Holmes and Gulbe, and it proved to be a good one, as the two combined for eight points in the final 10 minutes. Indiana completed the season sweep of the Badgers, winning the game 77-49.

Indiana now focuses on a big matchup against No. 16 Ohio State in Columbus on Saturday. The Buckeyes are coming off a stunning loss at College Station against Penn State, so the Hoosiers will need to bring their A-game against a hungry OSU team. 

“When [Ohio State] came to our place I think we were right there,” head coach Teri Moren said of IU’s 78-70 loss to Ohio State on Jan. 28. “We just gotta keep being who we are. We are a good enough basketball team to beat anybody in this league. We have a group right now that’s confident and looking forward to the opportunity.”

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