The Badger women's basketball team continued its struggles as it lost a close contest, 68-59, to the Iowa Hawkeyes at the Kohl Center Thursday night.
The Badgers have now lost 12 of their last 14 after beginning the year 4-0. Wisconsin had its chances in this game that saw Iowa push the lead to 11 early in the second half, only to have the Badgers battle their way back into it.
After a Jolene Anderson jumper cut the lead to four with 3:22 left in the game, the Badgers had four consecutive trips down the floor end unsuccessfully. Iowa then hit a couple of free throws, and Wisconsin never got closer than six.
The Badgers were unable to take advantage of the Hawkeyes' lackluster offensive performance in the second half, where Iowa made more points off of free throws than from the field.
"I give credit to Wisconsin because we were very stagnant with our offense tonight. That was probably the worst that our offense has really executed during the course of this year," Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. "We didn't have movement, we weren't making good passes — it's evident. Nine assists. For us, that's very low in the assist column. Our offense relies on good passing and they took a lot of that away from us tonight."
As much as Iowa was able to take advantage of the free-throw line, it proved to be the Badgers' downfall. Wisconsin was only able to convert 4-of-14 attempts on the night, including just 2-of-11 in the second half.
Jolene Anderson led the Badgers with 20 points but could not connect on a couple of late free throws.
"You just have to think that your legs aren't tired and you can't let it bother you. It goes along with the mental thing that coach Stone says, you know, just go out there and play," Anderson said.
Wisconsin was able to hold Crystal Smith, the Big Ten's leading scorer, in check for most of the game. She was held to just 3-of-7 shooting on the night and did not even attempt a shot from the field in the second half. But the senior was able to knock in all eight of her shots from the charity stripe.
Iowa was led by 6-foot-6 freshman Megan Skouby, who had 23 points and six rebounds. The Badgers switched up their defense early on to a zone to try to limit the touches of the taller Skouby, after she had eight points in just more than five minutes.
The UW starting forwards — senior Kjersten Bakke and freshman Caitlin Gibson — did not seem to have an answer for Iowa's frontcourt, as they were outscored by the duo of Skouby and forward Tiffany Reedy 48-9. Reedy's 15 was a season high for the senior.
"I am not usually a penetrator, and tonight that is pretty much all I did," Reedy said. "I just stayed focus and I knew this game was important, so my mindset was just doing whatever it took to win."
The first half saw the Badgers outplay the Hawkeyes in nearly every way but turnovers.
"The story of the game was points off turnovers in the first half," said UW head coach Lisa Stone. "We had 14 turnovers in the first half. It looked as if we had not seen the press, but that's all we've worked on the last three years I've been here. We certainly need to improve in those areas."
Wisconsin gets a short break from conference action as it looks to rebound against Eastern Illinois on Monday. The Badgers hope to rebuild their spirits as they prepare for the stretch run in the Big Ten.
"Mentally, it's tough. You gain confidence from working hard and getting success," Bakke said. "There has never been a lack of focus at the ultimate goal, and I think we stick to the game plan.
"We've all been in hard times. Everyone experiences it through their life, and we will step out on the floor tomorrow just as ready to work as the day before."