SAN ANTONIO — Ali Patberg scored 17 points to help fourth-seeded Indiana beat No. 1 seed North Carolina State 73-70 on Saturday night, sending the Hoosiers to the regional final for the first time in school history.
Indiana (21-5) had been in the Sweet 16 just once before, back in 1983 before the women’s NCAA Tournament became a 64-team field.
Indiana led 70-60 with 2:51 left before N.C. State scored eight straight points to get within two with 1:21 left. The Wolfpack (22-3) had a chance to tie it, but star Elissa Cunane missed a contested layup with 30 seconds left.
Nicole Cardano-Hillary then made two free throws with 21.1 seconds left. Before those two from the line, Indiana had been a dismal 6 for 13 on free throws.
The Wolfpack weren’t done, with Raina Perez making a jumper in the lane to get N.C. State back within two with 13.5 seconds left. Patberg then hit one of two free throws to make it 73-70 and Cunane missed badly on a 3-point attempt just before the buzzer, setting off a wild celebration by the Hoosiers at midcourt.
Indiana trailed 33-28 late in the first half before scoring the final six points of the second quarter. It carried the momentum into the third, opening a 45-35 lead. Indiana hit seven of its first eight shots in the period.
Patberg had seven points in the quarter as the Hoosiers, who face the winner of Arizona and Texas A&M on Monday night in the Mercado Region final, led 58-48.
Jada Boyd scored 18 points for N.C. State, and Raina Perez had 17.
The loss ended a wonderful season for the Wolfpack, who won the ACC Tournament title and earned the first No. 1 seed in school history. N.C. State was trying to secure the program’s second Elite Eight berth and first since the 1998 tournament, when they were coached by the late Kay Yow.
The Hoosiers played stellar defense in the opening two rounds of the tournament, allowing just 40 points a game. It was the fewest points ever allowed by a Big Ten school in the first two games of the NCAAs.
For the first time in the tournament, the general public was allowed to attend the games in the Alamodome. Each game was allowed to have 17% of capacity, which was around 4,800 fans. In the previous two rounds, teams were given six tickets per person in the travel party.
BUILDING A PROGRAM
Indiana coach Teri Moren grew up near the Hoosiers’ campus and went to many men’s basketball games as a kid since the women’s team wasn’t very good. That isn’t the case anymore, not after she built the program into an elite team. The Hoosiers reached the top 10 of the AP poll for the first time in school history and finished second in the Big Ten.
N.C. State played without Kayla Jones, who injured her left patella in the opening-round win over North Carolina A&T. She is averaging 11.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists this season.