A 22-3 run in the fourth quarter ultimately decided the game for the four-seeded Hoosiers, as they were able to defeat the 13-seeded VCU Rams soundly, 63-32. The win puts Indiana at 19-5 on the season, as IU advances to the Round of 32 which will be played on Wednesday against Belmont.
According to IU Athletics, it’s the fewest points a Big Ten team has ever allowed in an NCAA Tournament game.
Defensively, Mackenzie Holmes was phenomenal as a rim protector, picking up five blocks along with dropping 17 points. Grace Berger was also phenomenal Monday, scoring 20 points while also grabbing eight rebounds. Head coach Teri Moren had some high praise for the performance of her junior guard.
“Grace was terrific today,” Moren said. “She singlehandedly, particularly in the first half, was the highlight offensively. Anytime where our kids can generate some offense where they’re attacking the glass and going to the rim, that’s a momentum getter.”
The Hoosiers got off to a blazing hot start on both sides of the floor in the first quarter. Berger, Ali Patberg, and Holmes would combine for nine points in the opening three minutes to give IU a 9-2 cushion on the Rams. The defense also looked fantastic, holding VCU to an opening 1-for-5 shooting and a couple of turnovers as well.
After the hot start, the shooting started to cool down a little bit. IU shot 3-for-8 from the field after VCU called a timeout, but Berger certainly wasn’t slowing down. She had 11 of the 16 points in the first quarter, and added four rebounds to her stat line as well.
While Indiana’s shooting woes continued, VCU got some good looks inside. Berger only had two points in the second quarter, but was still shooting at a solid 6-for-10 clip. The Rams held the Hoosiers to a very low 22 points in the first half, and Indiana needed another scorer to step up in order to pull away from the Rams.
However, the message at halftime was the defense needed to create the offense.
“[The message at halftime was] if we get stops on defense that will lead to some momentum on offense,” Berger said. “We’re always confident that if we’re not hitting shots, our defense will carry us to a win.”
IU jumped out to a 10-point lead early on in the third quarter, which was in large part due to getting stops on defense and turning them into buckets. With so much attention put on Berger, this left room for Patberg and Aleksa Gulbe to hit some huge shots and force VCU into a timeout to talk things over.
Another reason the Hoosiers were able to extend this lead over VCU was how few turnovers they committed. Indiana had only five turnovers at the end of the third quarter, which looked completely different than the third quarter against Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament. Combining that with big quarters from Patberg and Holmes, IU led 41-29 with one quarter to play. Moren was very impressed by how her team stayed disciplined today.
“The one thing that impressed me the most was turnovers,” Moren said. “Those that follow Indiana women’s basketball understand that our goal is always 12 or less turnovers, ball security is paramount in our program.”
Indiana picked up right where it left off to begin the fourth quarter. With the inside play of Holmes and the outside shooting of Patberg, the Hoosiers were able to open up the lead to 20 points. Along with the great offense, the defense looked spectacular as well, holding the Rams to just three points halfway through the fourth.
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A big reason for the Rams’ lackluster performance on offense was the way the Hoosiers were able to defend VCU’s star guard Taya Robinson. Robinson was only held to six points and shot 1-for-10 from the field, thanks to a defensive clinic from Patberg. Moren was able to empty her bench later in the fourth, as the fourth quarter dominance resulted in a 63-32 win for the Hoosiers.
Indiana will take on the 12 seed in the region, Belmont, in the Round of 32 in San Antonio. The game will be on Wednesday and the time is yet to be determined.