by Skip Daley – South Central Indiana News Network
A nice crowd at Gainbridge Fieldhouse this afternoon to see the #5 seed Indiana look to upset the B1G Tournament #1 seed, Ohio State. A LOT of red and white in the stands today, as both teams share the same colors. Although, when Indiana came out of the locker room, it was obvious that Hoosier Nation was in the house.
When the starting line-ups were announced, IU Senior Forward Aleksa Gulbe was not to be found, most likely due to a hard fall she took during Friday’s matchup against Maryland. Instead, IU went with a starting 4-Guard set, with Chloe Moore-McNeil getting the nod; she made her presence known early. After the opening tip-off, she broke the basket to score a lay-up and the first points of the ballgame.
Ohio State enabled their full-court press very early in the game, which they would sustain for much of the first half. But the Hoosiers were able to break their first look at the pressure with a rocket launch pass to Ali Patberg who sank the open 3-pointer. Patberg would sink another 4 minutes later, then, turning to the fans to generate some noise.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the first quarter would turn out to be the play of Indiana Forward Arielle Wisne. Wisne came into the game with 4:09 left in the quarter, and in 2 minutes, made 3 spectacular defensive plays, carrying the momentum while Mackenzie Holmes took a needed breather.
“We tell all of our players to stay ready . . . [Wisne] has stayed ready,” said IU Head Coach Teri Moren. “[This team] just falls in love with each other’s success,” Coach added. “I know her teammates were certainly so happy [for her]. You could just tell by the excitement when she came out just how pleased they were and how happy they were for her that she came in and had an impact.”
Indiana would earn a 21-17 lead after 10 mins of play, and the second quarter produced more back and forth with these two conference powerhouses battling hard on every possession. Indiana’s defense was stellar in the first half, holding the Buckeyes to 3 offensive rebounds.
With 5:15 remaining in the second quarter, out of nowhere, Aleksa Gulbe entered the game, to a roar of the crowd. She would only play 14 minutes, but her presence was welcomed by fans and teammates. Indiana maintained 4 Guards most of the way, to match-up against the play of Ohio State, while cycling in their ‘Bigs’ one at a time. At the half, IU led 38-30.
The second half would prove to be decisive for Indiana, who shot well, defended the perimeter, remained strong off of the boards, and refused to turn the ball over.
With 3:11 left in the game, Indiana had an 11-point lead and the ball. The Buckeye defense was intense, but Ali Patberg found the ball and dribbled to the key where she flipped a no-look bounce pass to a cutting Nicole Cardano-Hillary, who sank the bucket and the ensuing free throw, completing the 3-point play. The Hoosier ball movement was on fire, as they would accomplish 20 assists in the game, allowing for the best possible look.
Yet, the Buckeyes played until the final buzzer, executing a strong full-court trap over the last couple minutes of the game. A controversial jump ball call with 42 seconds remaining had Coach Moren up in arms. The possession would go to OSU, who was trailing by 6.
The crowd chanted IU . . IU . . IU as the Buckeyes 3-point attempt fell short and the ball went out of bounds with 25 seconds left. IU had their inbounds stolen, but the Buckeye shot rimmed out and Cardano-Hillary was fouled after finding the rebound. Indiana was strong enough to close the game with a 70-62 final score.
Nicole Cardano-Hillary wound up with a double/double, scoring 16 with 11 rebounds, 1 steal, and 5 assists; Patberg had 15 points, 3 assists, and 1 steal; Grace Berger had 10 points 6 rebounds, and 7 assists; Moore-McNeil had 11 points and 2 assists, and Holmes scored 12 while pulling down 3 boards and blocking 2 shots.
Next up, Indiana will have the opportunity to cross off one of their pre-season goals, as they play the winner of the Iowa/Nebraska game for the B1G Championship.