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Women’s notes: Berger continues to do it all for Hoosiers

And she’s probably going get another (!) triple-double before this season is over

NCAA Women’s Basketball: Indiana Hoosiers at Kentucky Wildcats
IU’s Grace Berger drives to the basket against Kentucky on Dec. 6, 2020.

Grace Berger nearly did it again.

In Sunday’s win over Michigan State, Indiana’s junior guard authored the kind of stat line that has become expected from her this season. She filled the columns for points, rebounds and assists, ultimately finishing one point, one board and three helpers shy of a triple-double. Had she met those marks, it would have been her third triple-double of the campaign.

Her. Third. Triple. Double. Of. The. Campaign.

Such versatile and diverse production has become the norm this season for Berger, whose two triple-doubles this season lead all of Division I women’s basketball. And on an IU team that doesn’t want for options, it’s Berger’s ability to do a little bit of everything that’s helping the Hoosiers go.

“She’s just really been committed to getting better year after year,” IU coach Teri Moren said on her weekly radio show this week. “She’s an extraordinary player, obviously with her skillset alone, but she also wants to be challenged. I think about moments when we need someone to make a big play (and) it just seems like Berger is always the one to make a big play for us.”

For the season, she’s scored in double figures 11 times, including four 20-plus point games. Not only is Berger IU’s second-leading scorer at 15.6 points per game, but the Louisville, Ky. native leads the Hoosiers in assists (5.8 pg) and has only four fewer boards this season (93) than IU’s top two rebounders, Mackenzie Holmes and Aleksa Gulbe.

It’s that well-rounded production that has earned her a place among the best players in the Big Ten in Year 3.

“That was a big emphasis for me coming into the year,” Berger said on Moren’s show. “Just being a consistent presence for my team every night, whether I’m scoring the ball or whether my shot is going down or not. I think I’m doing a much better job of, when my shot’s not falling, getting my teammates involved, getting some assists, getting rebounds. I think my defense is slowly getting better, so I’ve been working on becoming a better all-around player. I still have a long ways to go, but I think I’ve definitely improved from past season.”

And carved her name prominently in the IU record book, as well.

Berger’s triple-double on Nov. 25 against Eastern Kentucky (17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists) was the first in Indiana women’s history — and it took only a month and a half for her to do it again on Jan. 7 with 15 points, 12 assists and 10 boards at Penn State.

Might she pull off another special effort before this season ends? She sure came close to doing so last weekend.

“She almost could have messed around and got another one (on Sunday),” Moren said. “It’s such a privilege to be able to coach a kid like Grace, who’s super competitive, is all about the team and wants to do whatever you need her to do. Great kid on and off the floor. She’s just been nothing but a pure joy and privilege to have in our program.”

Browne brings a welcome presence

Teri Moren calls it good juice.

It’s the energy created by her players, particularly those who don’t log regular minutes on the floor. And it’s something Kiandra Browne brings in abundance.

“She’s full of good juice,” Moren said. “Whether she’s on the bench or on the floor, she’s consistent at bringing it.”

Browne brought it last week, finishing as a plus-five over 11 minutes against Michigan State and posting four points and finishing as a plus-four in 12 minutes against Ohio State.

“She’s special,” Moren said. “Just with the energy she provides, her voice, how she communicates at a high level. It heightens the way she plays, but it also does something for her teammates around her.”

Breakout from beyond

The 3-ball simply hasn’t been a consistent part of the IU offense.

It’s not like Indiana isn’t trying — the Hoosiers are chucking up 16 per game, but they’re making only 4.6 a night. That’s the third-lowest average in the Big Ten.

It was an especially dire situation from deep over the first six games of January, when Indiana shot just 26% (22-for-84) across games against Maryland, Penn State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Northwestern and Ohio State.

Then came the payoff. In Sunday’s win over Michigan State, the Hoosiers erupted for seven 3-pointers — their second-most of the season — while shooting 70% from the perimeter.

Turnover troubles

Generally, the objective is to have no more than 12 turnovers per game, and over a five-game stretch in January, Indiana had no problems staying below the target. During that span, the Hoosiers averaged merely 8.0 errors per game.

But the past two games have been a different story for IU, which committed 17 turnovers against Ohio State, then was responsible for 16 miscues against Michigan State.

Even so, IU remains one of the best teams in the country when it comes to protecting the ball. The Hoosiers’ 10.8 turnovers per game are the sixth-fewest nationally and the second-fewest in the league.

Poll watching

Indiana dropped in both major polls this week, but remained in good position in the NET rankings.

The Hoosiers fell one spot to No. 17 in the Associated Press Top 25 and moved down two places to No. 17 in the USA Today/Women’s Basketball Coaches Association poll.

Meanwhile, IU is No. 10 in the latest NET rankings, the second-highest position among Big Ten programs.