Long before Sunday’s game at Iowa even tipped, Indiana was dealing with a loss.
Jaelynn Penn’s decision to opt out of the remainder of the season meant the Hoosiers were down a trusted veteran guard, a suboptimial situation to be facing ahead of a game against one of the best scorers in the country. But a collective effort from the Indiana backcourt, supercharged by the play of Ali Patberg and Nicole Cardaño-Hillary, helped the Hoosiers to an 85-72 road win over Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“There was an interest level in how these guys would respond today with the news of Jaelynn opting out, but this is not new for us with Nikki being in the lineup,” IU coach Teri Moren said. “We got a snapshot of that after (Penn) went down after the Maryland game. That’s what I’m most proud of. It took all of us today, and that’s what we wanted our response to be.”
Patberg scored 23 points for the Hoosiers, while dishing seven assists and committing just one turnover, and Cardaño-Hillary added 17 points and played solid defense on Hawkeyes star Caitlin Clark. Meanwhile, Mackenzie Holmes did what she usually does, posting a double-double of 25 points and 13 rebounds. For Holmes, it was her fifth double-double of the season and the 11th straight game she scored in double figures.
Iowa led by as many as nine points midway through the second quarter before a 14-2 Indiana run to close the period put the Hoosiers in front 36-33 at halftime. And after IU saw a 10-point third-quarter lead dwindle to a single-possession advantage, the Hoosiers ran away with the fourth quarter, as the trio of Patberg, Cardaño-Hillary and Holmes alone outscored Iowa 25-16 down the stretch.
Cardaño-Hillary filled Penn’s spot in the lineup and had her best all-around game in an IU uniform. Not only did she hit three 3-pointers, she did a decent job on Clark, who needed 27 shots to get her 30 points.
“I think she was really pesky today,” Moren said. “She came up with a couple loose balls, 50-50 balls (and) I thought, overall, she was really good and stepped up.”
Clark wasn’t the only matchup problem that Indiana solved. Monika Czinano has been a tough assignment all season, but the Hoosiers held her to 16 points (three below her season average) on 7-of-15 shooting.
“Our post players did a tremendous job on Czinano,” Moren said. “They were physical on her. (Baskets) were hard to come by just because of how physical our kids were. That was not just (Holmes) but (Aleksa Gulbe and Kiandra Browne) when she went in. They did a great job.”
Grace Berger added 15 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals.
For the Hoosiers, Sunday’s win was their second in a row and sixth in their past seven games. It was also the program’s first in Carver-Hawkeye Arena since 1994. They’ll return to action on Wednesday at home against Penn State.
“I’m so happy for our crew,” Moren said. “What a great win at a really difficult place to win at. Back, back, back many moons ago when I was a player at that other school up north, this was always a really difficult place to win. For our kids to come in and respond the way they did was really ... I can’t tell you how happy I am for those guys.”