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'She was cooking': Berger’s lights-out night gives Indiana second straight win

With her shoulders slumped and a disgusted look on her face, you could tell plain as day, Grace Burger was frustrated. She was 0-for-1 from the field, and Minnesota’s defense was controlling the game.

Berger then went on to score eight straight buckets and firmly place Indiana in the lead. She finished the game with 25 points and 11 rebounds, both team highs, propelling Indiana to a 65-52 victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Grace Berger eyes the basket in Indiana's win over Minnesota. (Ross Abdellah/HN)

“She was cooking,” head coach Teri Moren said, “without question. And when Grace shoots it like that, and she sees that thing go in, just her confidence, I think goes to a whole ‘nother level.”

Midway through the second quarter, Berger decided she would be the focal point of the offense. And after she got her first bucket, she scored in bunches, recording eight straight baskets for the Hoosiers and pushing them ahead of a Minnesota team that didn’t trail at all in the first quarter of the game.

“I knew the midrange was going to kind of be open off of screens and my teammates were setting good screens for me and spacing the floor,” the sophomore guard from Louisville said, “I was just knocking them down.”

After a scoreless first quarter, Berger scored her first points with 6:27 left in the second; she then went on to hit four more midrange jumpers in a row, propelling Indiana to a 27-24 lead at the half.

The break didn’t cool her off, though, as she came out of the locker room and scored Indiana’s first 12 points of the second half.

“When someone’s playing like that offensively, we're just going to keep getting them the ball,” said junior Ali Patberg, “and Grace was awesome tonight.”

Berger was the performer of the game, but it shouldn’t go unnoticed that Patberg and Jaelynn Penn both put in their second straight solid performance.

Against Penn State this past Thursday, Patberg scored 18 points and nine assists, while Penn added 11. On Monday, they both scored in double figures again. Patberg added 11 and Penn 15 to complement Berger’s monstrous night.

That trio was so good Monday, those three didn’t come out of the game at all in the second half. Patberg played the full 40 minutes, with Berger playing all but two minutes of the game and Penn sitting for only four.

It was tough for either team to find a rhythm offensively in the second half, mostly due to the number of fouls committed by both sides. In total, there were 34 fouls called in the game. Indiana took advantage of this, picking up a lot of points and shooting 20-for-24 from the free-throw line.

“It was good that we shot it at 83 percent tonight from the free-throw line,” Moren said,  "although I do think, and maybe I’m just a greedy head coach that wants more, but I think we should be shooting it in the 90s.”

A home win is something Indiana hasn’t captured in almost 20 days, with its last one coming on Jan. 9 against Purdue. Because of their three-game losing streak, every Big Ten game is now crucial for the Hoosiers to pick up if they want to keep their hopes of winning the Big Ten regular-season title alive.

They’ll have a chance to pick up another one this week against one of the weaker Big Ten opponents left on their schedule when they take on Wisconsin. The Badgers are 10-10 on the year and have only been able to manage two Big Ten wins.

At home, Indiana will look to solidify its regained confidence with another conference win. Wisconsin travels to Assembly Hall on Thursday for Indiana’s annual breast cancer awareness game. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m., and the game can be found on BTN+ or listened to on WHCC 105.1.

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