The shot was anything but a perfect swish.
As a matter of fact, the ball bounced off the front of the rim, off the backboard, back off the front of the rim, then the heel of the rim, off the backboard again and finally dropped through the net.
A friendly bounce was all Ali Patberg needed to make her first 3-pointer on Sunday and by Indiana standards, a deluge of outside shots followed as the No. 19 Hoosiers rolled past visiting Wisconsin, 74-49, on Sunday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
IU would finish by tying a season-high with nine made 3s and shot a season-best 52.9% from beyond the arc, led by Patberg’s 5-of-7 effort en route to a team-high 21 points.
“We have put in the work constantly and haven’t stopped,” Patberg said of the 3-point shooting. “In games, we haven’t shot well but we’re still confident because we’re in the gym. We’re just out there playing and taking the looks we get and stepping up and hitting them.”
Patberg’s initial make from long-range came just a few minutes after the Badgers had rallied to tie the game at 20 midway through the second quarter and gave the Hoosiers a 27-22 lead, sparking an 11-2 spurt over the final 1:53.
Mackenzie Holmes, who finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, added a three-point play before Patberg splashed in another 3 with 20 seconds left in the half. Indiana capped things off with a Patberg steal at the other end, and the senior guard found teammate and roommate Keyanna Warthen ahead of the pack for a layup at the buzzer to make it 35-24.
“Key did a great job, not just guarded well, but had a couple of runouts in transition,” IU coach Teri Moren said. “Any time you go into halftime you certainly want the momentum. It wasn’t a fun first quarter to watch, but in the second quarter we did pick it up. A 10-point lead against Wisconsin is not enough to make you feel good going into halftime, especially with (Sydney) Hilliard over there and (Julie) Pospisilova, that’s some scoring power, and Imani Lewis is a terrific post player as well. Not lead is safe, because they’re relentless, they’re not going to stop working.”
Indiana knew that full well after surviving the Badgers in overtime a year ago. This time around the Hoosiers never let Wisconsin think it had a chance.
After a Pospisilova jumper to start the third quarter, IU answered with a 9-0 run that featured the first six points of the game for Grace Berger, who finished with 12 points, six assists and five rebounds in a somewhat quiet encore to Thursday’s triple-double at Penn State.
Indiana might have put Wisconsin away sooner had it been able to make free throws and layups. The Hoosiers shot just 11-of-19 (.579) at the line and a paltry 18-of-43 (.419) inside the arc.
“We know we can make those (layups),” said Holmes, who was 6-of-12 on field goals. “At that point, we have to focus a little harder, making sure the ball goes in the hoop. We know at the end of the day those are shots we can and will make, so trying not to overthink the next one is important for me and for everybody, not overthinking it when we get the ball around the rim.”
After that initial run pushed the lead to 18, the game hit a bit of a stalemate. Each time the Badgers (3-6, 0-6 B1G) threatened to creep back into contention, Patberg pulled the trigger on a 3 to shut the door.
The Indiana defense was also stingy, as Wisconsin shot just 31.9% from the field, including 0-of-8 from 3. Hilliard had 23 points and Lewis 10 to pace the Badgers.
But the Hoosiers (7-3, 5-1) were too much, even with Aleksa Gulbe, Nicole Cardano-Hillary and even Holmes battling foul trouble. Warthen, Grace Waggoner, Kiandra Browne and Chloe Moore-McNeil all contributed off the bench for Indiana, which was without senior Jaelynn Penn for the second straight game after a leg injury at Maryland last Monday. Cardano-Hillary also played her second straight game with a mask to protect an eye injury.
“I think (our bench) is huge for our team and our future success,” Patberg said. “When they comes in the game, I’ve talked to Key and Kiandra a lot about comgin in with energy and effort and knowing what they come in the game to do. They played great this game and the last game, so that’s going to be good for us, them having confidence as we continue to play and win games.
“Coach says it a lot, ‘Everyone matters for our team.’ and that’s the truth. Their minutes are going to be huge, and I thought Chloe also played well.”
Moren described Waggoner as holding down the fort, providing a seamless lift as Indiana went with a smaller lineup at times against Wisconsin’s four-out attack.
But it was the Hoosiers who did the most perimeter damage, following Patberg’s lead.
“It was great to see the 3-ball fall, especially for Ali,” Moren said. “I think, not to give Nikki any excuses right now, but with the mask, she like Ali, they hate that thing. It’s not even close to being love-hate, love that it’s protecting me, it’s a hate-hate. They hate the mask, and right now just because of the shot she took at Maryland in the eye, we’re trying to protect her, but that’s been a bit of a bugaboo for Nikki right now in trying to find her comfort level.
“… It was nice to see the 3s drop. It’s been good to have Ali off the ball and have Nikki in there, another playmaker that can find the open man. Ali benefited from those pitchouts from Nikki finding her outside the arc.”