It's late March, and the Indiana Hoosiers are doing what Indiana Hoosiers do — playing team basketball and bidding for an NCAA Tournament championship.

Only this time, it's the women's team.

And, boy, are they fun to watch, well-coached, aggressive, skilled and determined.

While the exhilarating experience of a deep run in the tournament isn't new for Hoosier fans of a certain age, it's new to the IU women's program.

On Wednesday evening, Coach Teri Moren's team, seeded No. 4 in their region of the national tournament in San Antonio, waylaid No. 12 Belmont 70-48 to capture IU's first berth into the women's Sweet 16.

On Saturday, the Hoosiers took it a step further, holding off a North Carolina State comeback to defeat the top-seeded Wolfpack 73-70 and reach the Elite 8.

Monday night, IU will battle Arizona, the No. 3 seed in the region, for a spot in the Final Four. The 9 p.m. game will be telecast on ESPN.

In her seventh season as IU's coach, Moren has transformed an average basketball program into a Big Ten power. The Hoosiers have won 20 or more games in six consecutive seasons.

A native of Seymour, Moren coaches like a homegrown Hoosier, stressing an intense man-to-man defense and a ball-sharing offense.

Arguably the team's best player, Ali Patberg, was raised in Columbus. But the IU women's roster is far from provincial, boasting more international players (four) than Indiana-raised players (three).

If you like scrappy basketball, you'll love watching senior guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary, who grew up in Spain, play. The 5-foot-6 mighty mite is a pesky defender and a wizard with the ball in her hands.

Cardaño-Hillary wasn't a starter early in the season but has risen to the challenge since senior Jaelynn Penn opted out for the remainder of the campaign in February. Penn is recovering from offseason foot surgery and a twisted ankle. She can play again next year, if she chooses.

Cardaño-Hillary played her first three seasons of college ball at George Mason, earning conference rookie-of-the-year and player-of-the-year honors.

Listening to her speak, you'd never guess that English is Cardaño-Hillary's second language. One thing's for sure, she's fluent in the Hoosier brand of basketball.

The team's maestro of fundamental hoops, however, is 6-foot junior guard Grace Berger. A superb athlete, Berger has, in her words, "an old man's game" predicated on head fakes, slick ball handling and mid-range shooting. It's more than enough for Hoosier fans to forgive her Kentucky roots.

While Berger came from next door, IU's trusty duo inside, junior Aleksa Gulbe and sophomore Mackenzie Holmes, are a long way from home. Gulbe, a tough-as-nails rebounder and defender, came to the U.S. from Latvia. Holmes, Indiana's scoring and rebounding leader, hails from Maine.

While Moren has recruited around the globe to assemble a championship roster, this team is steeped in the traditional style of Indiana basketball. Patberg, the native Hoosier, embodies it. The 5-foot-11 guard has an all-around game that speaks to her love of hoops.

Don't miss a chance to see Patberg and her teammates fight for a shot at the Final Four on Monday night. Late March in Indiana is meant for this.

Contact Scott Underwood at scott.underwood@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4845.

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