BLOOMINGTON – Senior point guard Ali Patberg has set the bar high for the 2020-21 Indiana women’s basketball season.
“We want to win a Big Ten championship,” Patberg said. “We want to get in the (NCAA) tournament, and we want to go far in the tournament. We want to go really far.”
The Hoosiers are coming off a record 24-win campaign in 2019-20, which ended with a No. 20 ranking in the AP Poll before the season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. IU also was the only team in the country last season to beat No. 1 South Carolina.
Seventh-year IU coach Teri Moren said she expects her team to handle high expectations based on the motivation of having last season cut short before the NCAA Tournament. The Hoosiers only lost one starter from last season, senior Brenna Wise, and return a talented backcourt combo that includes Patberg (15.6 ppg, 5.3 apg) and junior Grace Berger (13.1 ppg, 3.5 apg).
“I don’t worry about the expectations for this group,” Moren said. “I think they have been here long enough to understand that the reason why they’ve had success is just because of the work that they continue to do and will continue to do.”
Up front, Indiana returns junior forward Aleksa Gulbe, who returned to her native Latvia this summer to play with the Latvian National Team, and sophomore forward Mackenzie Holmes. A key new face this season could be Danielle Patterson, a 6-foot-2 transfer guard from Notre Dame who sat out last season. Patterson also underwent knee surgery last season and did not practice, but Moren has been encouraged by what she’s seen from the Brooklyn, New York, native so far in practices.
“She’s a bucket filler,” Moren said. “She can spread you out, shoots it at a high rate, really has proven and shown in practice that she can shoot it with consistency most days.”
Patterson could be called upon to contribute right away because senior guard Jaelynn Penn, IU’s leader in 3-pointers made last season with 39, underwent plantar fasciitis surgery over the summer and could be out early this season.
The immediate challenge for Moren has been completing a schedule. The NCAA has set a season start date for Nov. 25 and a maximum number of games at 25. Moren said based on recent conversations, she expects the Big Ten to play 20 conference games for women’s basketball. The Big Ten-ACC Challenge has not been locked up yet, but if it happens, Moren said IU will host North Carolina State at Assembly Hall.
“If we keep the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, now we have to find four non-conference games,” Moren said. “Really trying hard for those to be home games for us just from a health standpoint and keep everybody safe.”
Moren said she feels Patberg is ready to step into a leadership role this season. Patberg said she prepared for that role over the summer by creating bonds with teammates through Zoom calls.
“It’s to the point where they know that I care about them, and I can kind of not get on them, but push them a little harder than I ever have before, just because they know that I want the best, we want the best from one another,” Patberg said. “They trust me. I trust them.”