INDIANAPOLIS -- With 4:52 to play, Indiana and Iowa went to their respective benches for the final media timeout of the game. The 10-seed Indiana Hoosiers held a 54-53 lead over the 2-seed Iowa Hawkeyes.
Iowa Head Coach Lisa Bluder said there was no panic in the team during that timeout. They came out, hit a big three, regained the lead, and never looked back. Iowa pulled away late, winning 70-61 and advancing to the Big Ten tournament semifinals.
This matchup was just 15 days after IU hosted Iowa and knocked off the then No. 10 Hawkeyes. That previous matchup was also the return of Ali Patberg after she missed three and a half games due to a shoulder injury.
In the five games since her return, Patberg is averaging 19 points per game. In the two Big Ten tournament games, she averaged 22.5 points per game and knocked down 6-of-8 from long range.
“She’s pretty special,” Teri Moren said postgame. “Her ability to score it, her ability to facilitate, the energy she plays with… I thought Ali was really good the last two days. But it’s not anything any of us are surprised by because that’s how Ali Patberg plays.”
- Patberg carrying the way
- Lack of contributions from others
- What's still ahead?
Though Indiana drops its quarterfinal #B1GTourney matchup to Iowa, things remain optimistic for an NCAA tournament berth. @ConnorHines17 and @AustinRender wrap things up in Indy. #iuwbb pic.twitter.com/PugBHakqcK
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) March 9, 2019
Patberg was great, but the rest of the starters struggled to get in a groove. Kym Royster played just 12 minutes, while Bendu Yeaney, Brenna Wise and Jaelynn Penn were a combined 6-of-26 from the floor. Penn, in particular, started 0-for-9. While she hit her last two, a pair of big shots in the fourth quarter, Moren couldn’t help but wonder what the game would have been like with her knocking down more shots.
“We needed her in those first three quarters to hit some shots for us,” Moren said. “I think the outcome probably could have been a little different for us. I think it was a frustrating night for Jaelynn. Even though she had a couple of those late, at that point, it was wishful thinking that I wish she could have hit some of those earlier.”
It wasn’t all negative for the Hoosiers. Patberg was solid, and so was freshman Grace Berger off the bench. Berger finished with 13 points on 6-of-13 shooting. Her 13 shots were her most in a game this season. She only attempted 10 shots one other time.
Berger has certainly gone through her ups and downs as a freshman, but what seems to never waver is her midrange jump shot. Tonight, against Iowa, Berger got open a lot for some midrange pullups due to her aggressive play, seeking her shot.
“I thought my shot felt good in warmups,” Berger said, “I got in and hit a few so I was pretty confident.”
Linsey Marchese’s efforts may not appear on the box score, but her season-high 27 minutes were spent working tirelessly to deny and defend Big Ten Player of the Year Megan Gustafson.
While Gustafson may have ended up with 30 points and 17 rebounds, Teri Moren was proud of the way that Marchese played in a game that was physical from start to finish.
“I thought Marchese did a great job,” Moren said. “There’s no recipe, I’ve said that. What we tried to do was make it difficult. We tried to dig as much as we could… every time she caught it we wanted a second defender there.”
Other than Gustafson, only one other Hawkeye scored in double figures. Indiana gave themselves chances to win the game, but Iowa hit the shots and Indiana didn’t, leading to the nine-point defeat.
Now all eyes are on the NCAA selection committee. Yet again, Indiana sits on the bubble. However, this season their odds seem to be much higher than in years past, thanks to a big win Thursday night against Minnesota and their non-conference resume.
After playing two incredibly physical and competitive games against the Hoosiers, Iowa Head Coach Lisa Bluder didn’t hesitate when asked if Indiana is an NCAA-tournament team.
“Oh absolutely,” Bluder said, “I think there’s no doubt. They were in the top-25 earlier in the year. I know they suffered through some injuries with Patberg. You take Patberg out of the team, and yeah, they’re pretty different. But now she’s back and she’s healthy and they definitely deserve to be in the NCAA tournament.
The remarks from the opposite sideline were very similar. Last season, Moren defended their resume in this same building and in the same press room. However, there seems to be more evidence backing up her case this season.
“Oh yeah, without question,” Moren said. “It’s not just in Big Ten play, our non-conference schedule was extremely difficult. I think that’s one of the things the committee wants you to do… I don’t know if you ask any Big Ten coach if they think a loss to another Big Ten team is a bad loss, it’s just that good of a conference.”
And now they wait. Will this selection Monday be any different for the Hoosiers? Most think so. ESPN bracketology has them in the field, but not by much, making these next 10 days a nervous time for the Hoosiers.
But it’s all out of their hands now. They knocked off a solid Minnesota team on Thursday and then went toe-to-toe with a nationally ranked Iowa team. Their work is done. Their opportunities are over. Now they wait to see if they’ll hear their name on March 18 to play in their first NCAA tournament in three years.