The backcourt for Indiana has certainly seemed to find a groove in the absence of Mackenzie Holmes, as the No. 7 Hoosiers routed the Fighting Illini at the State Farm Center Wednesday night, 93-61.
Leading the IU backcourt was captain Ali Patberg, as she scored a game-high 26 points, with 21 of those coming in the first half. Head coach Teri Moren praised her veteran guard for such a great offensive performance on the road.
“Nobody has more confidence in Ali Patberg than our staff and her teammates,” Moren said. “So every game we expect Ali to be a force for us offensively. The last two games haven’t looked like that for her, but I thought tonight [she was] assertive. She did exactly what we’ve been hoping she would do, and so we’re just hoping this will springboard her into the next games.”
— Indiana Women’s Basketball (@IndianaWBB) February 10, 2022
Along with Patberg, Grace Berger had 13 points on an efficient 6-for-8 shooting from the field. Berger also led the team in both rebounds and assists, with eight and seven respectively. Her threat to drive the ball to the basket created opportunities for Patberg along with some of the other guards in the rotation on the outside to knock down 3-pointers.
A pleasant surprise for Indiana came from backup point guard Kaitlyn Peterson, as she gave the Hoosiers some great offensive production in the minutes she got. Peterson scored 11 points in just 18 minutes on the floor, proving she can add depth to an already strong Hoosier backcourt. Not only did she show to score the ball in multiple ways, but she showed she can push the pace and get the ball to Aleksa Gulbe and Kiandra Browne in transition.
Nicole Cardaño-Hillary was big in knocking down some shots, as she added seven points, four rebounds, and four assists to the stat sheet in only 18 minutes played. She also added a team-high two steals, as she continues to be a valuable defensive asset to the team. However, her playing time was cut short in what appeared to be a lower body injury. Nonetheless, Moren said she is not worried about the injury and expects to see the veteran guard back out on the court soon.
With Holmes still being injured, this Hoosier team has seemed to have gotten more comfortable playing with each other. IU had 23 bench points against the Illini on Wednesday night, which is nearly seven times of what they had in their first game without Holmes last week against Michigan. Moren attributes this to the toughness her team brings on a daily basis.
“They’re one of the toughest groups I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching,” Moren said. “It doesn’t matter what the score is, what the time on the clock looks like, if we’re down and there’s time we feel like we always have a chance. And that just says so much about them as people, their competitive spirit both individually and as a team, and that’s what I love so dearly about them.”
The Hoosiers travel back to Bloomington where they will take on another opponent that got rescheduled in the visiting Michigan State Spartans. MSU shocked Indiana in last year’s Big Ten tournament, so IU will come out to play with revenge on its mind come Saturday afternoon. However, the Spartans are barely above .500 and sit in the middle of the Big Ten standings, so this is another opponent the Hoosiers are more than capable of beating.