Regardless of anything that would happen over the next 39 minutes, the most important moment of the IU women’s basketball’s game against Auburn in Las Vegas came shortly after tipoff.
Fifth-year guard Grace Berger, the 2021-22 All-American honorable mention, went down holding her right knee on the Hoosiers’ third offensive possession. She was eventually helped off the court and spent the rest of the game on the end of the bench, her leg elevated across several chairs. An ice pack taped to the injured knee.
After the game, IU coach Teri Moren didn’t have an update on Berger but said she was concerned.
“I knew she was hurt because of the look on her face when I got to her,” Moren said. “And that’s hard, but what I do know about Grace is she’s resilient, she’s tough, and we’ll get her back to Indiana as quickly as we can and evaluate her. And then we’ll go from there. She’s our leader, and we’ll rally around her. But if I know anything about Grace, whatever it is, she’s gonna deal with, she will attack it the way she always attacks everything.”
Berger being out long-term would put a major dent in the ambitions of an IU team in the midst of a promising start. The undefeated Hoosiers, who went to the Sweet 16 last year, picked up their second win over a Power Five opponent away from Assembly Hall. Berger is part of an experienced core that includes senior Mackenzie Holmes and Minnesota transfer Sara Scalia.
In Berger’s absence, the Hoosiers kept Auburn at a distance throughout the night, but struggled to pull away before winning 96-81.
Trailing for almost the entire night, the Tigers pulled to within 5 points late in the third quarter. Indiana committed only 12 turnovers, but had trouble as Auburn began denying passing lanes and playing more aggressively on defense. That’s usually Berger’s time. She’s a calming presence in close games, doesn’t change her style of play or lose composure when opponents go on a run.
With Berger out, Moren looked to junior Chloe Moore-McNeil and freshman Yarden Garzon.
“At this point, it doesn’t matter,” Moren told them during a timeout. “Either one of you, bring the ball up and get us into our offense.”
Garzon finished with 21 points, six rebounds and six assists. Moore-McNeil scored 15 points to go with her six assists. IU won the fourth quarter 28-21 and survived Auburn shooting 40% on 3s.
“Grace does so much for us on both sides of the ball, so having her go down early in the game was difficult, but I think we knew that we had to rally around each other at that moment and do everything necessary to get a win for Grace,” said Holmes, who had 26 points on 10-for-10 shooting with 12 rebounds. “And we did a good job of that, but I think it just goes to show how important Grace is to this program.”
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: IU women's basketball: Grace Berger injured as Hoosiers beat Auburn