SAN ANTONIO, Texas — When Ali Patberg missed her first free throw with 11 seconds left while Indiana was holding on to a two-point lead, she knew the second one was going to fall.
The Hoosiers' sixth-year senior stepped to the line, released her second attempt, it bounced around the rim, but Patberg was right and the free-throw dropped.
Now up three with 11 seconds to go, Indiana needed one more stop to take down No. 1-seeded NC State. The Hoosiers hunkered down, forcing a contested three-point shot by Elissa Cunane that missed off the rim. Indiana grabbed the rebound, the clock hit triple zeros and the celebration ensued for Indiana.
"We just knew we had to get a stop," Patberg said. "Coming into the game, I told the team it was going to be one possession at a time. We had an answer."
The 73-70 victory over NC State gave Indiana its first-ever appearance to the Elite Eight.
The players and coaches were showered with water in the locker room postgame, creating a monumental moment in program history.
"It was so fun," Patberg said. "A memory we'll remember forever."
It was a game of runs, and early on, it looked as if NC State had the advantage.
The Wolfpack got out to a 7-0 start, and Indiana answered with a 9-0 run only to have NC State go on a 13-2 run. NC State took an 11-point lead toward the end of the first quarter, but a stepback three from Patberg put the Hoosiers within single digits heading into the second.
It was from that point where Indiana started to settle in and control the tempo of the game. The ball pressure from Indiana's guard, especially Nicole Cardaño-Hillary, forced NC State into a lot of turnovers and allowed the Hoosiers to get back in the game.
Indiana also crashed the offensive glass hard, and as a result, took a 34-33 lead into halftime. NC State, who averaged 12.8 turnovers per game this season, had 11 turnovers at the half.
"I thought we were tremendous defensively," head coach Teri Moren. "Obviously started from Nikky, but I thought they were all great."
The start of the third quarter was really where the Hoosiers were able to pull away. Indiana picked up where it left off with the defensive pressure, and this time it allowed Indiana to get out in transition and get some easy baskets.
Within the first couple of minutes, Indiana had pushed its lead out to double digits. The Hoosiers led 58-48 heading into the fourth quarter.
Things were going smoothly throughout the first seven minutes of the final frame. Indiana was still up by double digits, but when Mackenzie Holmes picked up her fifth foul with three minutes to play, the game shifted.
NC State made four-straight shots, mix that in with a bad turnover from Cardaño-Hillary and a couple poor shots from Indiana, and the Wolfpack were all of a sudden within two with 1:29 left to play.
"We don't get bothered that they make a run," Moren said. "We just have to stay true to who we are."
Indiana got two-straight stops to prevent NC State from tying the game, and Cardaño-Hillary, who shot 50% from the free-throw line this season, knocked down two to give Indiana a four-point lead with 21 seconds left.
From there was the Patberg free throw and the missed three by Cunane as NC State became the first No. 1 seed to be eliminated in the tournament so far.
Meanwhile, the Hoosiers, who had all five starters score in double figures, will continue dancing, and they will play the winner of Arizona and Texas A&M in the Elite Eight on Monday.
"We're built for this," Moren said. "And we're not done."
- SENIORS SHARE SPECIAL BOND: Indiana seniors Ali Patberg and Keyanna Warthen have a special relationship that started three years ago. CLICK HERE
- PATTERSON OPTS OUT OF SEASON: Indiana's Danielle Patterson has opted out for the remainder of the year. CLICK HERE
- BERGER ADDED TO WATCH LIST: Grace Berger joins Ali Patberg on the Wade Trophy Watch List, getting added as a midseason addition. CLICK HERE
- PENN OPTS OUT OF SEASON: Indiana senior guard Jaelynn Penn has opted out for the remainder of the year. CLICK HERE
- CARDANO-HILLARY PROVIDING SPARK: Transfer Nicole Cardaño-Hillary has been a huge lift for IUWBB off the bench this season. CLICK HERE