Berger lifts No. 20 IU women over Minnesota

Indiana’s Grace Berger wasn’t just good on Monday night.

Grace was, well, amazing.

The sophomore guard scored 18 straight points spanning the end of the second and start of the third quarter, sparking the No. 20 Hoosiers to a 65-52 win over Minnesota at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Berger finished with a career-high 25 points and also posted her first career double-double with 11 rebounds.

“Whatever Grace Berger had tonight to eat, to drink, we need to bottle that up,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “… She was cooking, without question. When Grace shoots it like that and sees that thing go in, just her confidence goes to a whole other level.”

IU needed Berger to rise to the occasion in order to overcome an all too familiar early malaise.

The Hoosiers (16-5, 6-3 B1G) sputtered out of the gate, shooting 5-of-15 in the opening quarter to go with four turnovers. But Minnesota’s lead was just 14-11, and that wouldn’t be nearly enough.

Indiana opened the second quarter on an 8-1 run, getting baskets from Mackenzie Holmes, Ali Patberg, Jaelynn Penn and Berger to take their first lead of the game.

The basket by Berger began a stretch of 10 straight points by the Louisville native to end the half, but the IU lead was just 27-23 at the break. Berger was 5-of-5 in the frame, but her teammates were just 3-of-9.

“Stagnant,” Moren said. “Whether it’s Ali Patberg having an off night or Brenna Wise continuing to struggle beyond the arc, which is a little bit perplexing because of how much time she spends in the gym still, Jaelynn hit the one 3 but has been sort of inconsistent beyond the arc for us, so to have somebody like Grace Berger who can just go get you a bucket, I think every team wants one of those kids on their basketball team.”

It was more of the same to start the third quarter — two layups, a pullup jumper and two free throws by Berger, who missed her only shot attempt in the first quarter but went 10-of-12 the rest of the way.

“I wouldn’t say (it was) frustration, I just don’t think I was getting open looks,” she said. “My teammates were getting open looks, I just didn’t happen to get them as much in the first quarter. I was just focusing on doing other things, like getting rebounds and defensive stops and other things like that.”

However, Indiana wasn’t getting enough defensive stops to create any separation to start the third quarter.

Penn, who finished with 15 points, snapped the Berger streak with a pair of free throws, the start of a seven-point spurt by the junior that pushed the IU lead to eight.

Patberg, who had 11 points and six rebounds, missed a 3 that would have given Indiana an 11-point lead, and the Hoosiers had several other point-blank misses to get the lead into double figures.

Instead, they settled for a 48-39 lead going to the fourth quarter. Given that Brenna Wise and Aleksa Gulbe had yet to score, and freshman Mackenzie Holmes had only two points, the Hoosiers were actually in pretty good shape.

The Minnesota defense collapsed on Holmes throughout the night, and with IU going 1-of-9 from 3, it wasn’t easy to pull away.

Indiana made just one field goal in the final 11 minutes of the game, but the Hoosiers were 15-of-18 on free throws in the fourth quarter to keep the Gophers (12-8, 2-7) at bay.

“That’s an area where, knock on wood here, we’ve been so good in the past,” Moren said. “We haven’t shot the ball the way from the free-throw line that I think that we should be, and that’s just because I think we’re really good shooters, especially from the free-throw line and we spend time on those in practice. When we miss, I’m disappointed because those are two shots, nobody’s guarding you and you’re a Division I athlete and you should make all of them.

“It was good that we shot it at 83 percent (20-of-24 overall) tonight, although I do think, and maybe I’m just a too greedy head coach that wants more, but I think we should be shooting it at least in the 90s.”

Berger was 5-of-6 at the line, surpassing her previous career high on a free throw with 30 seconds left after putting on a show that her teammates appreciated.

“Grace’s midrange is, I think, one of the best in the country,” Patberg said. “I remember it was like five or six pullups in a row, so when someone’s playing like that offensively, we’re just going to keep getting them the ball. Grace was awesome tonight.”

9 comments

  1. Grace seems to be coming around once again. She was great tonight. Free throw shooting was good. I agree with T. Moren ft’s not great. Overall, win was less than impressive. If it was a road win that would be ok. At home not impressive. Rebounding was not bad. Fairly good. A win is a win but just not dominating.

  2. Not every win can be dominating. They took care of business which is the important thing, Style points in a win mean nothing, the win is the important thing! It would be nice to win a game against a not so great team by 25 or 30 points but, like I said, a win is a win. I can remember not that many years ago when we would have lost a game like this but, this team gets the job done. Grace was as good as she has been all year long! I said a couple of weeks ago that Berger was as good a player as there is in this conference and somebody jumped on me saying I was a little overboard with saying that? Well, I will say it again, if I was starting up a team in the conference and had my first pick of any player, Grace would be it!! She is our MVP by far and I would hate to see this team without her! Her game has improved so much over last year that she is unrecognizable! Her hard work over the summer has caused this transformation into the great player that she is! Our team struggled tonight but Grace made big play after big play over and over again to pull us through. Yes indeed, “Amazing Grace!” Go Hoosiers!!

  3. No matter what they do IU just cannot get in out of the gate fast, against good teams it will be their downfall such as Maryland. It was also quite obvious that Whalen’s game plan was to shut down Holmes who saw double and at times triple teams. She will get more and more pressure and in these situations she will have to be able find the open person as their should be. Thank goodness Berger was having a career game as everyone else struggled otherwise we would most likely have seen a loss tonight. Gulbe played great defense against bello too. Whalen wasnt too happy with her teams defense of Berger, great stat line career high 25 pts, 11 reb, 5-6 fta. Even though as Moren mentioned Wise is in the gym all the time but its not paying off beyond the arc, but at some point hopefully that will change. Now to get ready for Wis. Go Hoosiers!!!

  4. I understand not every win is by 20 to 30. Play tonight means you will beat teams you should beat and losses await in the wings to best teams. It is only one game. It should turn for the better. Most every time this team gets the job done, but not every time. Examples; Northwestern and Iowa. Even maybe UCLA. Yes, much better than just a few years ago. By the end of this season maybe IU Ladies will be better at getting the job done than this particular mid season. I think they will. If Berger is going to be this good it should create some openings for others to step up as scoring is available at all positions. Thanks to Grace’s great play in this one.

  5. I’m just happy for Grace.
    I know I’m repeating myself, but she took a HARD fall early in the year, and it seemed to take an awfully long time for her to come back to her former level of play.
    She certainly has!
    GO IU!

  6. Single digit turnovers! Left points on the table with missed bunnies. As MikeC said a win is a win. Berger took what the defense gave her and didn’t force things. I’m happy to see Warthen getting some playing time.

  7. I believe in the Big Ten this year especially, you are going to have to figure out a way to win “tough” games. This team figured it out, and that is a sign of growth. Remember this team lost several games in a row last year, or at least a few in middle of Big Ten. (8-10) overall. While we all may want to think every year should be “The” year, we should also maintain a level head and enjoy what this team is doing. Also keep in mind we lose one player and pick up two more next year!!! Let’s enjoy what these young ladies are doing a cheer like hell for them every night, they are a special group.

  8. With the new Bracketology out today IU drops to a #5 seed, no longer get to host. IU really needs to get back what they had early on, all cylinders clicking for the next 9 games. Not sure they can win conf. now but if they get it clicking maybe the B1G tourney.

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