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Indiana Women Ride Defense Into NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16

Indiana's Grace Berger was named first team All-Big Ten this season.

Indiana's Grace Berger has led the team in scoring in their first two NCAA tournament games. (Indiana University Athletics)

It’s all about defense for the Indiana women’s basketball team.

In their first two NCAA tournament games, the Hoosiers have held their opponents to 80 points. Combined.

And it’s helped put Indiana in the Sweet 16 for the first time since the field was expanded to 64 teams.

Defense has been the calling card for the 12th-ranked Hoosiers under coach Teri Moren.

“Our kids know who they are,” Moren said. “And they know why we've won the amount of games that we've been able to win this year, and in years past, is because we do one thing -- we work extremely hard on the defensive end. And we embrace that, and we love that.”

The Hoosiers allowed just under 60 points a game this season, when they climbed into the top 10 before finishing No. 12.

They allowed just 32 points in their tournament opening win over Virginia Commonwealth, then 48 in the second round win over Belmont Wednesday. Indiana won those games by an average of 26.5 points.

The Hoosiers finished second in the Big Ten this season with a 16-2 record and went 20-5 overall. They earned a fourth seed for the tournament and will face top-seeded North Carolina State Saturday at 6 p.m. in San Antonio. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

A tall task for sure, but one Moren thinks the Hoosiers are up to.

"I believe so much in this group, we got some momentum, and it's going to carry over into the next round,” Moren said. “Our best basketball is going to be ahead of us."

Indiana thought it would be in this position last year.

They finished ranked 22nd in the nation and set a program record with 24 wins. But less than a week before the NCAA tournament pairings were to be announced, the pandemic hit and the postseason was canceled.

 “We talked a lot about last March 11, when things got shut down, and just how disappointed we were sitting in that locker room and we didn't have any time to prepare for something like that,” she said.

The core of that team – senior Ali Patberg, junior Grace Berger and sophomore Mackenzie Holmes – returned determined to get back the tournament. And make the most of it.

Berger, in particular, has been on her game in the tournament. She had 20 points in the opening win over Virginia Commonwealth and 17 against Belmont Wednesday.

 “She understands, we get no do-overs,” Morin said. “We're one-and-done if we don't do our work and do our job. I always love Grace's mindset. She is one of the most passionate competitors I've ever coached.”

Berger averaged 15.5 points and 6.7 rebounds this season, second only to Holmes. Berger led the team with 115 assists.

Holmes averaged 17.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, while Patberg was third on the team in scoring (14.0) and second in assists (91).

Berger and Holmes were named first team All-Big Ten, and Patberg was named to the second team.

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