Indiana survives Princeton 56-55, advances to Sweet 16

by Skip Daley – South Central Indiana News Network

With 30 minutes before tip-off, the fan base was growing at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Second Round of the Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament would surpass 9,600 in attendance. By the time Jeremy Gray announced the Hoosiers over the PA System, the roar of the crowd was deafening.

Hoosier Nation came out and came out big for this historic game in this historic arena. The only noticeable orange in The Hall was the collection of a dozen or more tweed suit jackets, being worn by the Tigers band.

IU won the tip off, but on a drive to the basket, Graduate Guard Ali Patberg was called for a charge. After a few possessions, Indiana and Princeton traded triplets to begin the scoring. The game was very evenly matched between IU and the Ivy League Conference Champs, #11 seed Princeton.

The Tigers offered a disciplined zone, making it challenging for IU to get inside the paint. Both defenses were solid throughout the beginning of the first quarter, and the referees were calling a tight game. Abby Meyers, the Senior Guard for Princeton, picked up two early fouls and sat for much of the quarter. Meyers, who exploded for 29 points on Saturday while defeating Kentucky, was held to just 2 points after 10 minutes of play. The first quarter ended with the game tied up, 17-17.

IU with 62.5% shooting from the field was as much the story of the first half as holding Princeton’s top two producing shooters to a total of 6 points. Indiana was very successful off of the boards, as well, out rebounding Princeton by 9 by at halftime. Indiana went into the locker room with a 10-point lead even though they turned the ball over 10 times in the first half.

The third Quarter brought the Hoosiers onto the floor with incredible enthusiasm. All-American Senior Grace Berger looked like an acrobat from the mid-range, stopping on a dime and spinning in the air. But this game would be a tale of two halves, and the Tigers turned up the defense, holding Indiana to just 6 points in the quarter. At the end of 3 quarters, the Princeton deficit was reduced to 3 points, with IU leading 45-42.

Indiana had difficulty scoring in the top of the 4th, and threw the ball away on several occasions, allowing Princeton to come back within one point with 6 minutes left to play in the game. The Tigers took the lead with 5:13 to go, 50-49. The next 4 minutes would produce only 5 total points, and these two very alike teams were tied at 52, with 58 seconds left to play… Princeton’s possession.

IU picked up the rebound off of a missed shot, and called a timeout after crossing half court, with 38 seconds to play.

It took 10 seconds for Berger to split her defenders and drive to the basket, sinking an off-balanced lay-up for the 54-52 lead. And with Assembly Hall on the edges of their seats, the Tigers played for the last shot. The ball was heavily defended by IU Junior Forward Mackenzie Holmes, and with 4 seconds remaining, Patberg jumped in front of the pass intended for Meyers, getting fouled on the steal. The Hall was electrified! 
After a timeout, Senior Forward Aleksa Gulbe was fouled off of the inbound, and sank both shots.

There was only one second left on the clock, and IU had a 4 -point lead, and Princeton still didn’t give up, inbounding to Meyers. She hit the 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it was over. 56-55, IU won, and advances to the Sweet Sixteen to meet the Connecticut Huskies in the Bridgeport Region.

The Hoosiers gathered at center court and celebrated before the players ran to the South Student section, running into the stands to pay tribute to Hoosier Nation for all of their support.

After the game, Indiana Head Coach Teri Moren thanked the fans for their part in the team’s success.

 “Really happy for our group,” said Coach Moren. “Shout-out to Hoosier Nation. Thanks to [IU Athletic Director] Scott Dolson and [Deputy Athletics Director] Mattie White, and everybody that was responsible for making sure there were a lot of people in the stands. I do think this: I think tonight was our crowd willing us to this win. They’re going to share as much in it as we are, and so we are really, really grateful that we had our fans tonight inside The Hall.”

Princeton was led by Julia Cunningham and Grace Stone with 13 points each; Meyers was held to 11 points; Kaitlyn Chen scored 10; and, Ellie Mitchell scored 6 and pulled down 15 rebounds. The Tigers Shot 34% from the field, 5-17 from 3-point range, and 8-10 from the foul line. The Tigers will end their season at 25-5.

Indiana shot 51% from the field, 4-12 from the three-point range, and 8-11 from the free throw line. Grace Berger led the Hoosiers with 15 points; Nicole Cardano-Hillary added 12 points and 4 assists; Mackenzie Holmes scored 10 points and had 8 rebounds; Patberg had 6 points with 3 assists; Gulbe had 5 points and 7 rebounds; and, Chloe Moor-McNeil added 8 points off of the bench.

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