The team that prides itself on defense got the stop it needed.
And now the Hoosiers are headed to their first Elite Eight.
No. 4 Indiana weathered the final three minutes of Saturday’s Sweet 16 showdown with N.C. State without forward Mackenzie Holmes, avoided a late-game collapse and buckled down in the final, decisive seconds to outlast No. 1 N.C. State, 73-70, in the Mercado Regional Semifinals. IU will now face No. 3 Arizona in the Elite Eight on Monday.
After building a double-digit cushion that stretched to as many as 14 points late in the third quarter, a final, frenetic frame wasn’t what the Hoosiers had hoped to find toward the end of regulation at the Alamodome. But with the game on the line and one of its go-to players fouled out, Indiana demonstrated the resolve needed to pull off the biggest win in program history.
IU led 68-60 when Holmes was forced to depart with five fouls with 3:32 left in regulation. The Hoosiers then watched the top-seeded Wolfpack swing back with a 10-2 run over the next two minutes. Then, with 30 seconds remaining and N.C. State looking to go to the rim for the tie, Indiana forward Aleksa Gulbe forced the Wolfpack’s top scoring option, Elissa Cunane, into an awkward layup attempt that bounced off the back of the rim and into the hands of Indiana’s Ali Patberg.
At the free throw line, Patberg and Nicole Cardaño-Hillary combined for three crucial free throws in the final 21 seconds to help Indiana maintain its winning margin.
All five Indiana starters finished in double figures, accounting for 70 of the Hoosiers’ total points. Patberg led the way with 17 points, Holmes posted 16 points and Gulbe (11 points, 10 boards) and Grace Berger (12 points, 12 boards) each recorded double-doubles. Cardaño-Hillary finished with 14 points for the Hoosiers, who overcame a rocky start with spirited, smart play over the final three quarters.
Indiana trailed by as many as 11 points during the opening period, forcing Teri Moren’s bunch to grind and work the margins as the contest unfolded.
The Hoosiers clamped down defensively and forced 17 turnovers, flipping them into 20 points on the other end. They outworked the Wolfpack on the glass, holding N.C. State without a single offensive rebound through the first 20 minutes. They also avoided unnecessary fouls, keeping N.C. State from stepping to the free throw line over the first 28 minutes of the game.
Indiana overcame a 22-14 deficit at the end of the opening period with a 20-point second frame — enough to take a 34-33 lead into the intermission. The Hoosiers followed with a 24-point showing in the third, relying on their offensive balance to build their margin to 58-44 with 1:51 left in the quarter. Although the long-range shots weren’t falling — IU shot merely 2-for-14 from beyond the arc — the Hoosiers got to the rim with aggressive drives from Patberg and Cardaño-Hillary. IU also relied on Berger’s trusted mid-range game to create its cushion.
And then, with the win in the balance, Indiana had to trust its defense. Gulbe delivered, helping IU extend its stay in San Antonio and make a little more history along the way.