PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Ali Patberg remembered losing at Rutgers nearly a year ago when Indiana blew a 13-point, second-half lead. The Hoosiers wilted down the stretch against the Scarlet Knights pressure.
The 14th-ranked Hoosiers' guard wasn't about to let that happen again when a double-digit lead was down to five in the final minute of a 66-56 victory Tuesday.
“Watched a lot of film from last game, where we messed up," Patberg said. “"(The coaches) prepared us really well for the press. Multiple options we can look at. It comes down for us to executing and being confident to handle their pressure. When they did make their run we stayed calm we stayed composed and that was huge for us."
Jaelynn Penn scored 14 points and Grace Berger added 13 for the Hoosiers (12-2, 2-0 Big Ten).
Besides handling the pressure, Indiana played stellar defense again. The Hoosiers have allowed just one team to score over 70 points this season and that was then-No. 2 Baylor.
“One of the things our program hangs its hat on," Indiana coach Teri Moran said. “We’re different than most because we’ll play our scouting reports. We don’t play any team the same way. That’s worked out well for us."
Both teams struggled to score in the first half as Indiana held a two-point lead at the break. The Hoosiers got going in the third quarter with a 21-point effort to take a 46-36 lead. Indiana scored 16 of the final 24 points in the period to build its first double-digit lead of the game.
The lead ballooned to 13 points in the final quarter and Rutgers made a furious rally to get within 59-54 in the final minute, holding the Hoosiers without a point for 4:16. Aleksa Gulbe hit two free throws with 31.1 seconds remaining to end that drought and seal the win.
Arella Guirantes scored 23 points to lead the Scarlet Knights (11-2, 1-1), who were off to their best start in 29 years.
“Dealing with a mirage before. I readily admit that," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said of the strong start to the season. “This was the Big Ten."
Guirantes tweaked her ankle at the end of the game and Stringer wasn't sure how badly her star was hurt.
“I hate that happened. I don’t know right now, she’s limping," the Hall of Fame coach said. “”Going through a lot. She wants to play all the time. We need to give her a break."
The game got off to a rugged start with Indiana holding a 9-8 advantage after the first quarter. The two squads combined to shoot just 7-for-29 from the field in the opening 10 minutes. They also had 11 turnovers.
The Hoosiers held a 25-23 lead at the half as Rutgers missed six of its final seven shots before the break.
ENTERTAINING HALFTIME: While the crowd didn't have much to get excited about in the first half, they definitely were on their feet cheering on a group of frisbee dogs — Mutts Gone Nuts — that performed at half. The dogs not only caught frisbees, but also jumped rope.
BOOST OFF THE BENCH: Baylor transfer Alexis Morris played in her second game for the Scarlet Knights. The redshirt sophomore became eligible to play in Rutgers' last game against Wisconsin after sitting out a year because of transfer rules. She was dismissed by Baylor in 2018 for a violation of team rules. The Big 12 All-Freshman had two assists in 11 minutes against Indiana.
Indiana has been ranked for all nine weeks this season after only being in the poll for six total weeks before 2019. ... Penn became the 27th member of Indiana to reach 1,000 points. The junior guard has 1,013 in her career. ... Rutgers came into the game with 11 wins in its first 12 games. That was the best start in coach C. Vivian Stringer's 25 years at the school and the team's top mark since 1990. ... Rutgers was 1-for-15 from behind the 3-point line.
Indiana: hosts Illinois on Monday
Rutgers: visits Purdue on Sunday.
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