Indiana coach Teri Moren prides herself on her team’s ability to defend, and in Monday’s NCAA Tournament opener against No. 13 VCU, the Hoosiers gave their coach what she covets.
A dominant defensive showing.
No. 4 IU held the Rams without a field goal over the final 11:48 of regulation, while enjoying a resurgent second half on the offensive end in a decisive 63-32 first-round victory at the UTSA Convocation Center.
With the win, Indiana will face No. 12 Belmont on Wednesday.
Even with clear matchup advantages, the Hoosiers found themselves in a fight for a chunk of Monday’s contest. Outside of Grace Berger, who finished with a game-high 20 points, the Hoosiers had a hard time getting things going. VCU took away Mackenzie Holmes during the first half, goading IU into looks from deep. Indiana took the shots that were available, but hit only two of its 12 looks from 3-point range during the first half.
Indiana went scoreless for the first five minutes of the second quarter, helping VCU take a brief 17-16 lead. By the intermission, Indiana was back in front — but not by much — at 22-17.
The Hoosiers, however, dictated the course of play in the third quarter, getting Holmes more involved and outscoring the Rams, 10-5, over the first four minutes of the period. All told, IU held the Rams to merely 15 points in the second half, and of the 12 VCU players who saw the floor on Monday, none scored more than eight points.
Meanwhile, the 32 points allowed are the fewest by a Big Ten team in NCAA Tournament history.
“Defensively, we were locked in,” IU coach Teri Moren said. “I have no complaints with that side of the ball.”
It was the other side of the equation that took time to figure out. Moren said that, due to the 10-day layoff between the Big Ten Tournament and the start of the NCAA event, she was unsurprised that IU lacked offensive polish in the early goings. Thankfully for IU, Berger was poised to carry her teammates. She led the Hoosiers with 11 first-quarter points, before finishing with her seventh game with at least 20 points this season. She also added eight rebounds and two assists.
“In the first half, G generated a lot of our offense,” Moren said. “She needed some help in the second half, but I thought Ali Patberg stepped up. Finally, Nikki (Cardaño-Hillary) got a shot. Mack was huge on the inside, as well. But Grace is Grace. She’s a terrific player.”
Patberg posted 17 points, while Holmes added 14 for the Hoosiers, who will be playing in the second round of the tournament for only the third time in program history (1983, 2016).