As Mackenzie Holmes faked to her left and turned to her right, Ali Patberg was already backpedaling to the other end of the floor.
Holmes had established position deep in the post against a Penn State defender, and Patberg knew what was coming — especially when Holmes was having a night like this one.
“Tonight, obviously, she was scoring,” Patberg said postgame.
The post shot gave Holmes over 20 points for the second time this season — she’d end with a career-high 27 — as the No. 19 Indiana women’s basketball team claimed an 85-64 road win against Penn State.
The game was a back-and-forth battle between Holmes and Patberg for who would be the game’s leading scorer as Penn State (3-5, 0-4) fought back at certain points in the second half but could never really put pressure on Indiana (6-3, 4-1).
Indiana coach Teri Moren was forced to change her starting lineup for the first time this season with senior guard Jaelynn Penn “still under medical evaluation” after suffering an ankle injury in Monday’s loss at No. 12 Maryland.
With Penn out, Patberg needed to return to her aggressive form after scoring just nine points on seven field-goal attempts against Maryland.
Patberg came out hot, scoring 13 points in the first half on 6-of-8 shooting. However, she hesitated at times and turned away an open look at the end of the first half before taking a tougher one which resulted in a run-out highlight play for Penn State just before the half.
Despite the numbers, Moren pulled Patberg aside going into the locker room.
“I would be fibbing to you if I told you I didn’t get into her a little bit at halftime,” Moren said.
Out of the break, Patberg took it up another notch.
Though the stat sheet shows Patberg scored two fewer points and took three fewer shots in the second half, she took the looks when she got them with little hesitation en route to finishing with a season-high 24 points.
“I’m happy with the way she responded, especially after Monday night,” Moren said. “I thought she was pretty quiet, and we needed her to — one, show some leadership — but also to score and be aggressive tonight offensively.”
The efficiency and assertiveness by Holmes and Patberg made it easy to overlook what Grace Berger did after scoring a career-high 26 points against Maryland.
But with her teammates taking over early on, Berger quietly collected assists (12) and she collected rebounds (10). But her shots weren’t falling.
That was until she got going offensively as well. Berger scored 11 of her 15 points in the final frame as Indiana pulled away while she recorded her second triple-double of the season.
“I always come into the game trying to make plays for my teammates,” Berger said. “Early on, I wasn’t hitting shots so my mindset kinda transitioned to getting Ali — who was hot — shots, or (Aleksa Gulbe) or (Holmes) who was obviously hot too.
“… My teammates found me and got me some easy looks, so then I kinda got on a roll there a little bit — got some open looks and was able to knock them down.”
Her first triple-double came in the season-opener against Eastern Kentucky when Berger recorded 17 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.
Berger is now the only Division I women’s player with multiple triple-doubles this season. Before this season, Indiana never had a player record a triple-double.
But as much as the stats by Berger, Patberg and Holmes impressed, one stat stood out the most to Moren.
With one of its top guards out of the game and having to go deeper on the bench than usual against a press defense, Indiana had just two turnovers along with 24 assists.
When asked about the turnover department postgame, Patberg and Berger’s faces lit up because they’ve heard how often Moren mentions needing to have 10 turnovers or fewer — especially coming off a loss and playing on the road.
The two turnovers are the fewest for an Indiana team under Moren, beating a previous low of five against Penn State in 2016.
“It’s different when you can just walk it up or run it up and just run your sets,” Moren said. “It’s a whole other deal when you’re facing some pressure in the backcourt, and I thought we handled ourselves in a terrific way.”
After completing its first extended road trip of the season, Indiana returns home for a matchup with Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon. A win would give Indiana a 5-1 start in conference play for the first time since it went 7-1 to open Big Ten play in the 2008-2009 season.