Sticky defense, plus 17 points from Grace Berger, plus 13 points apiece from Ali Patberg and Mackenzie Holmes, plus 15 rebounds from Aleksa Gulbe added up to one thing for Indiana on Wednesday.
For the first time, the No. 4 Hoosiers are headed to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. IU’s extended stay in San Antonio comes courtesy of a decisive, 70-48 victory over No. 12 Belmont that saw Teri Moren’s team build on the trends it rode to a record-breaking regular season: lockdown defense and well-rounded contributions from its best players.
Now, the Hoosiers have a date with No. 1 NC State on Saturday at 6 p.m. Eastern.
IU shot 47% from the field, as four of its starters finished in double figures — Nicole Cardaño-Hillary added 10 points for the Hoosiers. IU also made the most of its gimmes, going 19-for-25 (76%) from the free throw line. The Hoosiers scored 1.12 points per possession, while committing only eight turnovers and outrebounding the Bruins, 42-35.
After a back-and-forth opening period, IU got hot to start the second quarter. The Hoosiers scored 11 of their 15 points that frame in the first five minutes, leaning on their Big Three of Holmes, Berger and Patberg to open a 10-point advantage 15 minutes into the game.
Not only was Holmes active early, scoring each of IU’s first six points, the Hoosiers were seemingly able to find all of the other looks they wanted. Berger seized on mid-range pull-ups, Patberg drained jumpers and Cardaño-Hillary got to the rim when needed. If not for a late-half dry spell, this one would have been out of hand much sooner. After taking a 12-point lead into the break, the Hoosiers turned on the jets and wore down Belmont in the third, drawing contact and scoring nine of their 21 points that period at the line.
IU outscored Belmont in every period, holding the Bruins to a 31% shooting mark on the day. Belmont attempted 26 3-pointers, but made only five.
Defense has been a theme for Indiana so far in San Antonio, as the Hoosiers have held their first two opponents to an average of 10 points per quarter and a 34% success rate from the field. IU has now allowed only 80 points through the first two games of the NCAA Tournament, which according to ESPN Stats and Info, makes it the first Big Ten team in tournament history to do so.
And now, IU gets to test itself against the best that the Mercado Region has to offer.