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‘We’ve never had that quit in us’: Hoosiers take control late behind Nicole Cardano-Hillary’s double-double to fell Buckeyes

A 12-0 run in the span of two minutes would ultimately decide the game between Indiana and Ohio State in Columbus, as the Hoosiers picked up their 16th win of the season. This was truly a monster win, as it keeps Indiana at second in the Big Ten, only behind Maryland.

A huge reason for the win Saturday was the wide variety of scorers Indiana had out on the floor, as the entire starting five scored in double figures. Grace Berger led Indiana with 20 points and Ali Patberg was shortly behind her with 19 points and seven rebounds.

But a double-double from Nicole Cardano-Hillary was a great thing for Indiana fans to see, as she added 16 very important points along with 11 rebounds.

Cardano-Hillary was key to the decisive 12-0 run in the fourth quarter, where IU went from trailing by four with four minutes to play to leading by eight with two minutes left. Cardano-Hillary scored four points during that run, including a clutch 3-pointer that forced a Buckeye timeout.

To her teammates, Cardano-Hillary gives 100% all the time.

“She plays really hard,” Patberg said. “She’s super competitive and she had 11 rebounds and she’s 5’6″. So that just shows you her heart, her toughness and her will to win. And she’s a great player, awesome teammate, so she plays her heart out.” 

The start of the game was very sloppy for both teams, as there were six combined turnovers in just the first four minutes of the game. Buckeye forward Dorka Juhasz picked up right where she left off when these two teams last faced, as she was a severe problem on the boards to start things off. For the Hoosiers, the scoring was very balanced in the beginning, as Patberg, Mackenzie Holmes, Berger and Aleksa Gulbe were all scorers in the first quarter. 

Berger’s scoring was a big reason Indiana was able to jump out to a six-point lead at the end of the first quarter. Her driving ability to carve up the Buckeye defense caused problems for OSU and forced the Buckeyes to respond on the offensive end against a gritty Indiana defense.

There was a lot more offensive firepower in the second quarter, as both teams got comfortable at what they do best. Ohio State seemed to have found its stroke from beyond the arc, while Indiana did a good job of getting the ball inside to Holmes and let her score. Patberg and Berger also played well and hit some huge shots to extend the Hoosier lead to nine points.

But two huge 3s in the final seconds of the first half from Braxtin Miller and Jacy Sheldon would quickly cut that Hoosier lead to just three points. Despite the late 3s, Indiana’s defense had a very good first half, forcing Ohio State into 10 first-half turnovers. This is especially impressive considering the fact the Buckeyes average 12 turnovers per game.

As soon as Indiana was building a lead to start things off in the third quarter, a huge four-point play from OSU’s Kateri Poole would cut the Hoosier lead to three. Some shooting woes late in the third quarter allowed for Ohio State to eventually take a five-point lead. 

Defensively, Indiana remained solid. But the Buckeyes were hitting all sorts of shots, and it seemed to frustrate the Hoosiers with the quality of shots they took. This is exactly how Indiana lost the game against OSU in Bloomington, so this made the fourth quarter extra interesting to see if Indiana could turn this game around being down five.

The quality of shots looked a lot better in the beginning of the fourth quarter. When the Hoosiers moved the ball around very well, there were open 3s and shots inside available to score. Holmes was also very impactful on the offensive glass, as she got some very critical rebound putbacks to keep the Buckeyes from going on a big run towards the final stretch of the game.

The Hoosiers responded with just over three minutes left in the game, as Gulbe and Cardano-Hillary hit some big shots. Indiana also did a phenomenal job keeping Juhasz and Miller off the glass and limiting the Ohio State second chance opportunities. For head coach Teri Moren, the will to come back says a lot about the heart of the team. 

“I think it says everything about who they are, their character, [and] just how tough they are,” Moren said. “We’ve never had that quit in us, we just don’t believe in that. And it’s just players stepping up making big plays, timely plays.”

Indiana would close out the game with made free throws to pick up an enormous 87-75 win over the Buckeyes in Columbus. For the team, it means a lot to finally end a losing skid against OSU.

“We haven’t beaten them in a long time,” Patberg said. “They made their run in the third quarter, and we knew they were going to make a run they’re a really great team. We stayed poised, hit shots when we needed to, and got stops when we needed to and pulled out the win.” 

Indiana now focuses on its regular-season finale against the Iowa Hawkeyes on March 3. The Hoosiers defeated Iowa a couple of weeks ago in Iowa City, but nonetheless, the Hawkeyes will bring a high octane offense to Bloomington. Indiana will need a great defensive performance to cap off the regular season before the Big Ten Tournament.

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