Indiana’s first chance at a top-15 win fell apart down the stretch at Kentucky in December. Its second opportunity was ruined by a bad start at Maryland in January. The Hoosiers had their third shot at such a victory on Thursday — and this one? It unfolded much more to their liking.
In one of the most entertaining games of the Big Ten season, No. 14 Indiana held off No. 11 Michigan, 70-65, in a physical, back-and-forth showdown at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
This one held extra meaning for both clubs, with IU hunting for a signature win and Michigan looking for a little respect. Earlier this week, when the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee released its first look at the top 16 seeds for next month’s tournament, IU and Maryland were the only Big Ten teams to appear on the list. Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico called the snub a “slap in the face” when she met with local reporters before Thursday’s game, voicing frustration with the perceived penalty after her Wolverines had dealt with nine postponed games in recent weeks. So it seemed Michigan would have a little extra juice in this one.
Did they ever. But Indiana matched it in a game that featured 12 ties and 17 lead changes. In all, the game was tied for nearly eight minutes.
Hot shooting buoyed Indiana early, and the Hoosiers ended the evening by tying their season high with nine 3-pointers. The deep shots came from some unlikely sources — which, on a poor long-range shooting team such as IU, could be just about anyone. But Chloe Moore-McNeil, who entered the game just 2-for-22 from beyond the arc this season, supplied two, and Aleksa Gulbe had three.
And in scoring a team-high 21 points, Ali Patberg also posted three 3-pointers during an impressive opening half. Patberg had 15 points over his first 17 minutes on the floor, standing out as IU’s best player on a night when the Hoosiers needed that to be the case.
During the second half, it was Grace Berger who came alive. Michigan held Berger scoreless across the first two periods before the junior went off for 16 points in the second half, drawing contact and going 10-for-10 at the line in the process. Eight of those free throws came over the final 3:32, as Berger helped IU put the game away at the line.
Mackenzie Holmes also had a hand in the winning effort — quite literally. With Michigan trailing by two with 35 seconds left, Michigan’s Naz Hillmon lost control of her dribble as she pivoted on the block, allowing Holmes to reach in and steal the ball, seize possession and position IU for a timeout.
Gulbe finished with 13 points for IU, while Nicole Cardaño-Hillary had eight, and Holmes and Moore-McNeil each supplied six.
The Hoosiers are back at it next Wednesday at Wisconsin.