Grace Berger’s second half gives IU women’s basketball offensive edge

Ali Patberg works on defending senior Kaila Charles on Maryland.

Redshirt junior guard Ali Patberg fights to defend senior Kaila Charles on Feb. 6 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Patberg scored 29 points in the Feb. 22 game against Minnesota. (CLAIRE LIVINGSTON)

IU sophomore guard Grace Berger had four points and two assists at halftime during the team’s matchup with Minnesota on Saturday. Junior guard Ali Patberg’s carried the team’s offense in the first half, but cooled off in the second and needed her teammates to step up.

Berger rose to the occasion, propelling the No. 24 IU women’s basketball team to a 75-69 victory.

“I thought Grace Berger was terrific in the second half,” IU head coach Teri Moren said.

The sophomore had perfect timing on a bounce pass that found freshman forward Mackenzie Holmes below the rim. Holmes finished with an open layup that opened the scoring in the third quarter.

Following a Minnesota miss, Berger charged down the court and hit a contested pull-up jump shot. Patberg found Berger on the next possession in transition, and Berger connected again, forcing a timeout from Minnesota head coach Lindsay Whalen.

Minnesota kept Berger off the scoreboard during the middle of the third quarter, but she contributed in other ways. Berger had a team-high nine rebounds that all came on the defensive end. She and her teammates held Minnesota’s guards to one offensive rebound which helped IU in transition.

As Berger’s confidence grew, defenders pressured her around the perimeter which opened doors for junior guard Jaelynn Penn to start scoring.

When the Golden Gophers sent extra defenders toward Berger, she found Holmes in the paint and Penn in mid-range territory. Berger found Penn on the right side of the basket for a jump shot that put IU ahead by six.

Shaky defense by the Hoosiers allowed the Gophers to tie the game with 1:12 left in the third quarter, but it was Berger who padded the Hoosiers’ lead heading into the fourth. Berger dribbled through the Gopher defense, faded away and banked her shot in to close the third.

This earned Berger a series of shoulder bumps and high fives from her bench, and it furthered her confidence into the final quarter.

Despite an opening basket and two free throws from Minnesota’s senior guard Jasmine Brunson, Berger responded with another pull-up jump shot. Brunson, however, scored on another jump shot that forced an IU timeout and tied the game at 59.

With just over seven minutes left in the fourth, Minnesota hit a 3-pointer and took a 62-61 lead. Once again, it was Berger who made the play for IU.

With Minnesota freshman guard Sara Scalia guarding her in the mid-range, Berger moved around a screen, put the ball in her right hand and knocked down a go-ahead jump shot. The sophomore connected on another layup and gave IU a lead and the victory.

Berger’s 14 second-half points propelled the Hoosiers to their fifth consecutive road victory. She has reached double figures in four of IU’s last six games and nearly averaged 10 rebounds over the stretch of IU’s previous four matches.

“It was a huge road win against a really good team at home,” Moren said. “I’m happy for our Hoosier