BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Grace Berger scored the last of her 15 points on a spinning, tiebreaking layup with 28.2 seconds left and Nicole Cardano-Hillary added 12 points Monday night help to help third-seeded Indiana beat 11th-seed Princeton 56-55 and reach its second straight Sweet 16.
Ali Patberg sealed the win in her home finale with a steal with 3.8 seconds left and Aleksa Gulbe closed it out with two free throws.
The Hoosiers (24-8) have won five of their last six and swept the first two NCAA Tournament games they’ve ever hosted – in front of a loud, large crowd. Indiana also has tied its single-season school record for wins.
Afterward the Hoosiers celebrated by jogging into the student section as the band played the school fight song and then lifted coach Teri Moren after the alma mater played. Indiana now faces either second-seeded UConn or seventh-seeded UCF on Saturday in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
The Hoosiers advanced on a night Princeton (25-5) was trying to post a tourney record ninth victory by a double-digit seed. Instead, the Tigers had their 18-game winning streak snapped while shooting 32.8% from the field and three of its top players got into early foul trouble.
Julia Cunningham and Grace Stone each scored 13 to lead Princeton. Ivy League player of the year Abby Meyers had 11 points, going just 3 of 14 from the field and missing her first six 3-point attempts before making her last as the buzzer sounded.
The Ivy League tourney champs sure made it tough on Indiana.
After trailing 39-29 at halftime, the Tigers stingy defense limited Indiana to just three baskets in the third quarter as they pulled within 45-42.
And when Ellie Mitchell capped an 8-0 run early in the fourth with a layup at the 5:19 mark, Princeton led 50-49.
Cardona-Hillary’s layup gave Indiana the lead, but Princeton answered with two free throws from Meyers with 1:12 to go.
Berger tied the score by making 1 of 2 free throws with 58.1 seconds left and then broke the tie with her layup on a play called during a timeout before Gulbe closed it out.
Princeton: Women’s basketball fans need to pay attention to what coach Carla Berube is building. They Tigers already have one of the nation’s stingiest defenses, balanced scoring and play with discipline that’s hard to match. It’s why they beat Southeastern Conference tourney champ Kentucky on Saturday and gave the Big Ten tourney runner-up everything it could handle Monday. And only one key player, Meyers, is a senior.
Indiana: The Hoosiers survived in front of the third-largest crowd in school history, 9,627. And they needed all the energy the crowd could muster. But after making the deepest tourney run in school history last year, to the Elite Eight, and hosting NCAA tourney games for the first time, Indiana wasn’t going to let any foe to deter it from making another Sweet 16 run.
Indiana faces either second-seeded UConn or seventh-seeded UCF on Saturday in Bridgeport, Connecticut.