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Indiana earns bounceback win against Minnesota behind Aleksa Gulbe’s career night, late surge

No fans, plenty of snow, and the first game back at home in three weeks stirred up the pot for an interesting game in Assembly Hall on Thursday. No. 5 Indiana battled down the stretch in a back-and-forth game as the Hoosiers inched out an 80-70 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers. 

Assembly Hall also saw a new type of environment for this game, which was a very familiar sight last season. Due to weather conditions, fans were not allowed to come for this Thursday night game, giving the fans only the option to watch from their homes. It wasn't completely empty, as a few students from the Indiana Student Athletic Board made way and gave the Hoosiers a much-needed boost for certain moments in this game. Senior guard Grace Berger spoke about their presence on this unique day. 

“The 20-student fan section, I'm not even really sure how they got in,” Berger said. “I thought they were not allowed, but it was a pleasant little surprise when we walked out. They were great, they brought us some energy especially when we were losing a little bit up there in the third and fourth quarter. I think they definitely helped us push to a win.”

After a tough loss back on Monday to No. 6 Michigan, Indiana looked to come back with a Big Ten win against Minnesota and the Gophers looked to put that on a pause with big leadership from junior guard Sara Scalia and a boost down in the post from graduate student Laura Bagwell Katalinich. 

Indiana's struggles came mainly from defending Minnesota's ability to shoot the 3. Minnesota shot lights out from behind the arc, having 33 of their 70 points come solely from behind the arc. A big part of that came due to Scalia not just leading the team in 3-pointers made but in points as well finishing with a team-high 26 points. 

The Hoosiers didn’t let Minnesota carry the game with 3s, as they finished with seven 3s of their own, with several coming in the late fourth quarter in key moments. The fourth quarter saw the back-and-forth battle between Scalia and Aleksa Gulbe as they both took turns taking 3s one after the other. After a few traded shots from both teams Indiana looked to pull away and ended up going on a huge run to close out this game. The Hoosiers closed things out with a 14-0 run over the Gophers and ultimately held Minnesota to just three points in the final six minutes of play. 

With Mackenzie Holmes still out due to a knee injury, Gulbe connected to step up for her team when they needed her the most. Finishing with a career-high 28 points, five rebounds and one assist, Gulbe played all but one minute to ensure her team got the much needed bounceback win. 

“This year I've talked to coaches and to see their expectations on how they see me on the floor and on offense,” Gulbe said. “Knowing they have confidence in me, trust me with the ball, I'm a senior, I know the system and putting the pieces together and it works.”

Head coach Teri Moren looked at how much not only Gulbe has improved the past four years but in recent weeks when her team needed her the most. 

“Tonight I think she was a little bit aggravated over there with us defensively as a whole, which was kind of good to see cause normally she's pretty pollyanna tonight for the first time she was pretty vocal in terms of how much better we needed to be,” Moren said. 

With Indiana now back in the win column, the Hoosiers look towards the upcoming weekend as they face off against in-state rival Purdue Boilermakers for the second time of the season. The Hoosiers traveled to Purdue earlier in the season, taking them on at Mackey Arena in front of 8,505 fans. The Hoosiers carried out an overtime win in that matchup which saw a possible upset but ended up falling in the hands of Indiana, 73-68. This time around the Hoosiers will be able to play with the star guard in Nicole Cardaño-Hillary, something they weren't able to do in the first game against the Boilermakers. Tip-off will be on Sunday at Assembly Hall as the Hoosiers attempt a season sweep against their rival.

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