Struggling to get even their high percentage shots to fall Friday night, the Wisconsin women’s basketball team’s poor shooting performance left them with another home loss, as they fell 69-51 to the Washington State Cougars.
Finishing the game with a 33 percent field goal percentage, as the Cougars (2-1) took control early in the second half, Wisconsin’s inability to drain their shots limited any opportunity for a serious comeback. The Badgers (1-3) failed to score in the first seven minutes of the second half, as seemingly every ball they tossed up rolled off the rim or bounced off the backboard.
With a roster full of young players on a team that returned just two starters, many of whom are still developing into their role as genuine scorers, head coach Bobbie Kelsey credited some of the shooting woes to less experienced players’ lack of confidence on the floor.
“It’s a learning process because a lot of these folks have not been able to shoot or allowed to shoot,” Kelsey said. “So you see a lot of hesitation out there, and some folks are open that should be shooting and others I tell them don’t shoot too early because we don’t want everybody just jacking up shots. But it’s about getting it into your people that can really put it in the basket, or whoever’s hot that game.”
Aside from turnovers, poor shooting (36.5 percent on the year) has been one of the primary concerns for head coach Bobbie Kelsey’s squad this year, an issue that perhaps hurt them more than ever against the Pac-12 opponent.
Despite starting the game strong and picking up an early 12-2 lead, thanks to the hot hands of guards Morgan Paige and Taylor Wurtz, Wisconsin was unable to keep the short streak going, keeping them from picking up their first home win of the year at the Kohl Center. But with layups coasting off the rim, the low percentage wasn’t simply the result of poor shot selection.
“I think tonight, I didn’t see anybody take horrible shots, it was just we couldn’t finish,” Kelsey said. “When you have post players that go two-for-11 and two-for-12, they’re getting shots, just not finishing them.”
As Kelsey noted, the Badgers’ two main post threats in forwards Anya Covington (two-for-12) and Ashley Thomas (two-for-11) struggled all night, allowing the Washington State defense to focus on the outside shooters. Picking up just 20 points in the paint, the inability to get anything going inside certainly hampered Wisconsin’s shooting percentage from the wing.
Kelsey pointed out that the team constantly works on shooting — and that she encourages them to practice as much as possible outside of practice — but players recognize that if they plan to soon get back on track, they have to start sinking their shots.
“Making the mistakes that we’re making, trying to see those, not make those same mistakes again in the next game,” sophomore guard Morgan Paige said. “We’re starting to see a little bit of repetition in the mistakes with the offense and execution, so if we can minimize those a little bit … we should be able to come out of this positively.”
Wurtz growing into role as top scoring threat
Although the Badgers struggled with their shooting as a team against the Cougars, junior guard Taylor Wurtz had another impressive performance and solidified her role as Wisconsin’s top offensive threat.
Nearly posting a double-double with 17 points and nine rebounds, Wurtz did not have her best shooting night but still found a way to score. The junior helped lead a late second half attack from UW and, for the third time in four games, she led the team in scoring.
In typical fashion, the selfless Wurtz gave much of the credit for her impressive performance Friday night to her teammates, but it’s clear she will be the player keeping opposing defenses awake at night for the rest of the year.
“I know that I need to step up and make plays and make good decisions, but it’s easy when I have teammates that can get me the ball and also take away a lot of the pressure,” Wurtz said. “I have a lot of faith in my posts and that they’re going to finish those shots, so the inside presence makes it easier for them to do an in-and-out game.”