Teri Moren grew up near Indiana’s campus and readily admits she went to men’s basketball games as a kid because the women’s team wasn’t very good.
That’s not the case anymore, thanks to her coaching and the play of another Indiana native.
Ali Patberg scored 17 points to help fourth-seeded Indiana beat No. 1 seed North Carolina State 73-70 on Saturday night, sending the Hoosiers to the regional final for the first time in school history.
“It means so much for us to be able to do what we did tonight and we are continuing to build our own tradition,” Moren said. “The tradition was always on the men’s side and we wanted to build our own. People talk about Indiana basketball and we didn’t want it to be exclusive just to the men’s side.”
Patberg, who is from Columbus, Indiana, was emotional after the game.
“This is a dream to play for Indiana. I grew up right down the road, I’m a Hoosier and this means the world to me,” said Patberg, who transferred to the school from Notre Dame in 2017. “My team, our program, it’s a blessing and dream come true to be here on this stage with my teammates and coaches.”
Indiana (21-5) had been in the Sweet 16 just once before, back in 1983 before the women’s NCAA Tournament became a 64-team field. Now the Hoosiers are one win away from the Final Four and will need to beat Arizona in the Mercado Region final on Monday night to get there. The Wildcats had never made it this far either.
The Hoosiers led 70-60 with 2:51 left before N.C. State scored eight straight points to get within two with 1:21 left. The Wolfpack (22-3) had a chance to tie it, but star Elissa Cunane missed a contested layup with 30 seconds left.
Nicole Cardano-Hillary then made two free throws with 21.1 seconds left. Before those two from the line, Indiana had been a dismal 6 for 13 on free throws.
The Wolfpack weren’t done, with Raina Perez making a jumper in the lane to get N.C. State back within two with 13.5 seconds left. Patberg then hit one of two free throws to make it 73-70 and Cunane missed badly on a 3-point attempt just before the buzzer, setting off a wild celebration by the Hoosiers at midcourt.
“Tough day. Give Indiana and their coaches and players a lot of credit. They did a great job,” N.C. State coach Wes Moore said. “They made it hard on us to run things offensively. Obviously they executed really well on the offensive end. I’m proud of our team. We were a little short-handed by a really good player in Kayla Jones and I’m proud of the way our kids fought. We had people playing some spots probably they hadn’t played all year.”
Jones injured her left patella during an opening-round win over North Carolina A&T. She averaged 11.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists this season.
Indiana trailed 33-28 late in the first half before scoring the final six points of the second quarter. It carried the momentum into the third, opening a 45-35 lead. Indiana hit seven of its first eight shots in the period.
Patberg had seven points in the quarter as the Hoosiers led 58-48.
Jada Boyd scored 18 points for N.C. State, and Perez had 17.
The loss ended a wonderful season for the Wolfpack, who won the ACC Tournament title and earned the first No. 1 seed in school history. N.C. State was trying to secure the program’s second Elite Eight berth and first since the 1998 tournament, when they were coached by the late Kay Yow.
“We’re going to get over the hump. We’ve got to get over the hump,” Moore said. “We’ve got to keep putting ourselves in this position and hopefully close the deal and take advantage of it.”
The Hoosiers played stellar defense in the opening two rounds of the tournament, allowing just 40 points a game. It was the fewest points ever allowed by a Big Ten school in the first two games of the NCAAs.
MAKE SOME NOISE
For the first time in the tournament, the general public was allowed to attend the games in the Alamodome. Each game was allowed to have 17% of capacity, which was around 4,800 fans. In the previous two rounds, teams were given six tickets per person in the travel party.