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Indiana survives first round of Big Ten tourney against Rutgers, looks ahead to rematch with Maryland

INDIANAPOLIS — It's the first week of March and that means one thing: Big Ten tournament basketball. Indiana women's basketball started off its tournament journey on Thursday against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in the first round of the tournament. No. 14 Indiana survived the first round and advanced, winning with a score of 66-54. 

After three straight losses to end the regular season, Indiana came into the tournament as the No. 5 seed while Rutgers was ranked as the No. 13 seed. Rutgers headed into tournament play with the second worst conference record in all the Big Ten going 3-14. This was the first that these two teams have met in just under two years. Indiana and Rutgers were set to meet earlier this year on Dec. 30 but the game was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. 

Indiana started off the game with a jump, making its first three shots to start off the first quarter. Led by ball movement by the Indiana guards, the Hoosiers found open shots. But after a few minutes after the start Indiana couldn't get a basket to fall, going on nearly three minutes without scoring. Rutgers jumped out with a two-point lead but couldn't hold it on for much longer as the Scarlet Knights only led for a total of 38 seconds in this game. Indiana quickly brought it back and took a 16-10 lead after the first 10 minutes. 

The physicality of graduate student Osh Brown and Rutgers down in the post made Indiana come with a new approach. With no sophomore Kiandra Browne due to injury, Indiana looked for a big day from senior Aleska Gulbe. But late in the fourth quarter, Gulbe fouled out of the game finishing with six points. 

The Hoosiers controlled the majority of the game as the team scored 16 points in each of the first three quarters and then 18 in the fourth. Senior Ali Patberg returned to a familiar court at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, scoring a team-high 19 points. Fifteen of those points came from behind the arc as Patberg finished with five made 3s, having made all but one of the Hoosiers' 3-pointers on the day.

“I love playing here," Patberg said. "I played here multiple times even before college and I'm just trying to go out there and do what I need to do to help our team win and that's all I'm focused on."

Alongside Patberg, senior Grace Berger finished with 17 points on the night. Berger scored every single point from inside the arc or at the free-throw line as she did not even attempt a single 3 in the game. 

“I think I'm just really competitive and I want to win," Berger said. "So when I'm out there, I'm just doing anything I can to win and obviously it helps that I'm a senior. I've been here before and I know how coach wants things. So I just try to come out, compete, do my job and win."

The Hoosiers now look toward a familiar opponent who they saw just six days ago as they get set to face off against the No. 4-seeded Maryland on Friday afternoon. Indiana and Maryland have split the season series with both teams winning a game against each other. In the last matchup Indiana lost 67-64 but now the Hoosiers look toward getting a win in the conference tournament. 

“I think it's a great advantage for us that we did just see them,” IU head coach Teri Moren said. “I think it's a great advantage that you know, we're on a neutral floor and I think the other positive thing is that we know that we can beat them. We beat them in Bloomington, you know, did some things that if we had do-overs and what we would have done differently in College Park, but you know, I think that we feel like we have a great opportunity ahead of us at two o'clock tomorrow.”

The game will start after the conclusion of Michigan State and Ohio State, at approximately 1:50 p.m.

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