Senior Day was more than 24 hours away, and the tears were already starting to flow.
Indiana seniors Ali Patberg and Keyanna Warthen weren’t quite ready to think about what might be their last appearance at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall when the No. 10 Hoosiers host Purdue Saturday at 1 p.m.
Like all seniors, Patberg and Warthen will have the option to return next year due to the free year of eligibility the NCAA granted for COVID-19, so Senior Day might not be farewell.
“I don’t know. Personally, I haven’t decided what I’m going to do,” Patberg said. “I’m an emotional person, so … I try not to think about it.”
But it was too late, the mere thought brought tears.
“It’s an emotional topic,” Warthen added. “We don’t want to think of it as the last time playing there right now.”
The Hoosiers (17-4, 15-2 B1G) would rather stay in the present, where they are riding an eight-game winning streak into the regular-season finale and still have a chance to share the Big Ten title with a win and a Maryland loss to Penn State, even though IU is locked into the No. 2 seed for the Big Ten Tournament.
“We want to go out and play really well,” Patberg said. “We’ve been playing well and have a lot of momentum and we need that going into the tournament. We want to go out, we want to start strong and finish strong.”
A win over the Boilermakers would also mark a season-record for conference wins, surpassing the mark set by the 1983 Big Ten champs and matched by the current Hoosiers.
Rivalry game or not, that’s plenty of motivation.
“I don’t know if it matters who it is, it just happens to be Purdue,” IU coach Teri Moren said.
This will be the second meeting between the teams this season. Indiana won the first matchup 66-45 in West Lafayette, holding the Boilermakers (7-14, 4-13) scoreless for an 11-minute stretch. Moren credits her team’s preparation for that kind of effort.
“We rely a lot on our defense, and whenever you can follow a scouting report the way our kids can — they’re very serious about their preparation,” Moren said. “We’ve never taken any game lightly.
“… Our coaches do an extraordinary job of making sure our players are prepared.”
That’s been the job of assistant head coach Rhet Wierzba, in particular, since he arrived in Bloomington with Moren from Indiana State. He’s done it well enough to prompt IU sophomore standout Mackenzie Holmes to recently proclaim, “Coach Rhet knows Purdue better than Purdue knows Purdue.”
“That’s how well he’s been able to scout them and help our players inside of the game, whether it’s actions, whether it’s out of bounds (plays),” Moren said. “Give Rhet, give my coaches credit for making sure we’re always prepared.”
However, that doesn’t mean Indiana can rest on the laurels of what it’s done during a four-game winning streak against its in-state rival, winning seven of the last eight meetings overall.
“They are running a few different actions we’re not used to, we’ve not seen, so we’ll be ready for those,” Moren said. “I think we’ll see a team in Purdue that will come in here and try to keep us off-balance, probably with makes and misses, a little bit of their 2-2-1 press to slow us down.
“… They’ve had a week off, so more than enough time for rest and preparation, and there’s no greater rivalry than IU and Purdue. They’ll come here and like every other team has, they’ll give us their very, very best.”
Indiana’s senior plan to return the favor.
“I think we all take this game as a statement game, finish out strong,” Warthen said. “Not just because they’re Purdue, but because we’re good enough to beat anybody.”