BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) — By the third Monday in March, Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall is typically closed for the spring and summer.

No basketball to be played. Come back in October for Hoosier Hysteria.

Grace Berger, the former star at Sacred Heart Academy, has changed that narrative.

Berger and her teammates on the Indiana University women’s team had the Hoosiers’ homecourt vibrating in a way that Bob Knight would appreciate Monday night.

With 9,627 fans in the building, the place had the energy of a Purdue game as Berger and the Hoosiers defeated Princeton, 56-55, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

It was the first time the Hoosiers have hosted a regional in program history — and Berger made sure Indiana celebrated the moment with gusto.

She made the game-winning basket with a spinning, twisting, determined drive with 28.2 seconds to play to push the Hoosiers ahead, 54-52. Taking the ball from point guard Nicole Cardano-Hillary near the top of the key, Berger drove hard to her right, pivoted and powered left into the lane and then dropped her right shoulder toward the backboard, elevated and scored at the rim.

"The play got me going downhill so I could get to the rim as quickly as I could," Berger said.

Why go to Berger at winning time?

"Because she's Grace," IU coach Teri Moren said. "Big-time players make big-time plays. That's exactly what she did."

The Hoosiers added two free throws before Princeton made a harmless three-pointer at the buzzer for the final margin.

Berger led IU with 15 points, making half of her 14 field-goal attempts.

"She's incredibly gifted, strong and smart, with an incredibly high basketball IQ," Princeton coach Carla Berube said. "She uses the defense to her success.'

Cardano-Hillary had 12 as the Hoosiers overcame 17 turnovers and only six points in the third quarter.

The victory put Indiana (24-8) in the Sweet Sixteen for the second consecutive season. They will play Connecticut in the semifinals of the Bridgeport (Conn.) Regional Saturday. The Huskies, the 2-seed, defeated Central Florida, 52-47, on Monday.

"It's unbelievable," Berger said. "Playing for Indiana means everything to me. Four years ago we were just struggling to get to the tournament."

"To be able to go to back-to-back Sweet Sixteens is special," Moren said. "But if you talk to that group in there, the job's not done."

The first half was a grind for the Hoosiers. The Tigers made their first three shots from distance. They traded baskets with Indiana even after losing Abby Meyers, the Ivy League player of the year, to a pair of fouls only four minutes into the first quarter.

Teri Moren

Indiana coach Teri Moren is hoisted aloft by her players after the Hoosiers' second-round NCAA Tournament win over Princeton.

Berger helped give Indiana a chance to exhale. After turning the ball over five times in the first minute, she finished the half by making three consecutive jump shots. That sent Indiana into halftime with a 39-29 lead.

But Princeton is a tough, determined team. The Tigers knocked Kentucky out of the tournament Saturday while winning their 18th straight game. They were unbeaten champions of the Ivy League.

After falling behind by 14 points early in the third quarter, Princeton outscored the Hoosiers 13-2 over the final 6 minutes of the third quarter and trailing 45-42 as the final 10 minutes began.

Princeton wasn’t finished. Taking advantage of turnovers and missed shots, the Tigers outscored IU 8-4 in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter to surge into a 50-49 lead, forcing Moren to ask for a timeout.

Indiana regrouped from there — thanks to Berger. After the final buzzer, the IU players were so appreciative of the crowd and the atmosphere that they rushed into the student section in the South bleachers. It was the third-largest crowd in program history and included IU football coach Tom Allen.

"I wanted them to know how much we appreciated them," said IU center Mackenzie Holmes. "We wanted to make them feel like they were part of the victory because they were ... tonight our crowd was willing us to the win."

"We've been together a lot," Moren said. "We kind of like each other. We don't want it to end."

Copyright 2022 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.