Seniors Share Special Bond for Indiana Women's Basketball

Ali Patberg and Keyanna Warthen have been roommates for the last three years, and the two seniors share an unbreakable bond both on and off the court.
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Keyanna Warthen was feeling homesick.

Warthen is from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and her minutes on the floor were sparse early in her career. She couldn't help but feel homesick more often than not.

Ali Patberg transferred to Indiana from Notre Dame in 2017, the same year Warthen was a freshman. Patberg has become a staple of the Hoosiers' women's program over the last three seasons.

When Patberg got to Bloomington, she could tell something was up with Warthen.

"When she was here, you could tell she was struggling," Patberg said. "So I was like, 'I'm just gonna take her home with me.'"

Patberg is an Indiana native from Columbus, and that hour-long drive is what started an unbreakable bond between these two senior guards.

"When we first clicked is when she took me to her home in Columbus, and we had that car ride there," Warthen said. "I shed some tears in the car explaining to her about my situation and how I'm homesick. Ever since then, she's always been there for me."

"Our backgrounds are different, but I knew my family, just the way loved and the way they embraced people, I knew they would love Key," Patberg said. "I just tried to be there for her because I knew she needed someone."

The two have been roommates for the last three years, and they share similar personality traits, including both being "goofy" as Warthen put it.

The friendship has been a welcome sight for Indiana head coach Teri Moren, but she admits the combination was one she didn't quite see coming.

"When she (Warhten) came here and Ali transferred here, if you told me the two of them would've became best friends, I would've been like really?" Moren said. "That's what the two of them have become. They've been roommates the last three years, and that's been fun to watch, too, that whole friendship develop."

Keyanna Warthen and Ali Patberg pose for a picture together ahead of Senior Day this Saturday, March 6, against Purdue.

Keyanna Warthen and Ali Patberg pose for a picture together ahead of Senior Day this Saturday, March 6, against Purdue.

Their paths to playing on the court have been much different. Patberg was the heir to Tyra Buss after she graduated in 2018, and ever since then, Patberg has been the engine that makes Indiana go.

Her role as the team's point guard, scorer, playmaker and leader has been an invaluable part of the team's success over the last three seasons.

"It's hard to put into words just how important she's been to the culture here," Moren said. "She's been one of the most special players I've ever had the opportunity to coach because she makes everybody, including me, everybody around her better."

Indiana Hoosiers guard Ali Patberg (14) yells during the Big Ten women's basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Friday, March 6, 2020.

Indiana Hoosiers guard Ali Patberg (14) yells during the Big Ten women's basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Friday, March 6, 2020.

As for Warthen, it took her some time to find her place on the court inside Moren's system. Warthen remembers the offseason going into her sophomore year, assistant coach Glenn Box would have her pick up the fastest player on Indiana's scout team full court and make her guard the ball for 90 feet.

Fast forward two years later, and Warthen is now the first player off the bench for Indiana, picking up the opposing team's best perimeter player 90 feet from the basket.

"I started taking advantage of that," Warthen said. "And then my teammates, they felt like I could defend well, so they gave me a lot of confidence on that end of the floor."

Purdue guard Kayana Traylor (23) goes up for a layup past Indiana guard Keyanna Warthen (2) during the second quarter of an NCAA women's basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 at Mackey Arena.

Purdue guard Kayana Traylor (23) goes up for a layup past Indiana guard Keyanna Warthen (2) during the second quarter of an NCAA women's basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 at Mackey Arena.

Warthen is starting to gain more confidence on the offensive end as well. She's more comfortable driving to the hoop and shooting open threes within the rhythm of the offense.

Her progression is something Moren has been really proud of, and she's pleased with how Warthen impacts the team both on and off the court.

"She can light up a room instantly with her personality and her kindness and how genuine she is," Moren said. "I love the way Key has accepted what we've asked her to do."

Saturday marks potentially the final game at Assembly Hall for both Warthen and Patberg. Due to COVID-19 and the extra year of eligibility granted to seniors, they both have the chance to come back next season, but they haven't made that decision yet.

Patberg got emotional when thinking about how this could Saturday could be her last game in Assembly Hall, and the two didn't feel like discussing it like that.

The way they look at it is another opportunity for the team to make a statement. Indiana has won eight games in a row and is ranked No. 10 in the country, which is the highest ranking in program history.

Facing a Purdue team that Indiana has dominated as of late, Warthen wants the nation to know that Indiana is poised for a deep run in March.

"I think we all take this game as a statement game. Finish out strong." Warthen said. "Not just because it's Purdue, but just because like, we're good enough to beat anybody.

"People don't give us the respect we need. So just, nine in a row, ten in a row, eleven in a row, win the Big Ten Tournament, go to the NCAA and make a statement. It's time to wake people up."

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