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IU women taking game to new level – Seymour Tribune

BLOOMINGTON — They are making people care, elevating the profile of women’s college basketball just by being themselves.
The Indiana team is 2-0 a week into the 2021-22 season, but it is about more than a simple number. The Hoosiers have created a new aura about their game, uplifting expectations and also showing what is possible.
On Sunday, IU defeated Kentucky 88-67 going away. And while some of the hoopla was about the hoops rivalry between the two states, another subliminal fact percolating close to the surface was what it all means in the big picture.
IU, which previously knocked off Butler in its opener on the road, also with a second-half surge, was ranked No. 8 in the country and Kentucky was ranked No. 13. As a bonus, less than 24 hours following the win, the Hoosiers moved up to No. 4 in the new poll, the highest ranking they have ever reached.
Matching up with another highly ranked team always asks for trouble, but the Hoosiers dramatically squashed the threat. They did so with diverse weapons by establishing a high-octane tempo and by repelling the other team’s strengths. Plus, wearing down the Wildcats in the second half, as they did to the Bulldogs.
In neither case did IU dominate from the opening tip. The Hoosiers gradually, inexorably took charge, flexing more muscle the longer the game lasted, as the other two squads failed to keep up with their own highest level of play.
At Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IU led 17-13 after one quarter and won 86-63. Guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary destroyed Butler from outside, making 7-of-8 3-pointers and scoring 29 points, her Indiana career high, though she once hit for 41 before transferring from George Mason.
Versus Kentucky, IU forward Mackenzie Holmes scored 29 points, mostly maneuvering down low, using both hands, but also swishing her free throws and notably running the court, showing off a new level of stamina that she worked hard to attain.
It may have been Holmes’ turn to be high scorer, but as she said, any of several players can go off for 20 or 30 on a given night, such as Ali Patberg, who added 16 this time.
There is a sense this is IU’s greatest women’s team ever. Coach Teri Moren of Seymour is in her eighth year as boss, and last season, the Hoosiers reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, then returned almost everyone.
Moren has walked a tightrope of being proud of the achievement and keeping her ladies’ heads level by reminding them there is more to accomplish, a philosophy they have parroted.
Others are being loud on their behalf, such as the 5,400 fans who showed up for the Kentucky contest in Assembly Hall, the first time since pre-pandemic the Hoosiers played before a home crowd.
That crowd included about 30 special guests, alumni players gathered for a dinner to be feted and included and reminded they are part of this.
Moren noted the alumni are “the pioneers” who laid the foundation of this success. She wants all to share in whatever the current players do.
“It was so great to have our fans back in the building tonight,” Moren said. “Any time you have two top 20 teams that are playing one another this early in the season, it makes for some really good women’s basketball. (We) really appreciate our fans. Hoosier Nation showed up in a big way.”
So did the seasoned players like Grace Berger, who recorded 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists. At game’s start, fans were reminded Berger earned a gold medal with a Team USA squad in the AmeriCup last summer. They gave her a standing ovation — and she deserved one afterwards, too.
When they need a spark, the Hoosiers just say Grace. She made the showiest shot of the game, nailing a buzzer-beating jumper from half-court, the 3-pointer counting when the game was still tight.
Not a shot she practices, she said, and when Berger tries such long-range heaves, “I’m usually pretty bad at them,” she said. “The basketball gods were on my side today.”
It may be the basketball gods are on the Hoosiers’ side this season.
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