The Wisconsin women’s basketball team was desperately attempting to reach .500 in Big Ten play for the first time after opening 1-5, and thanks to outstanding play from a trio of Wisconsin guards, the Badgers nearly pulled off their fourth straight conference victory.
But, due in part to a late flurry of cold-handed shots, UW fell to the Iowa Hawkeyes 85-79 in overtime.
Wisconsin guards Jade Davis and Taylor Wurtz lit up the Hawkeyes from everywhere on the court in the first half, shooting a combined 11-of-13 (.846) and scoring 16 and 13 points, respectively. The 16 first-half points for Davis were already a career-high, yet despite the torrid shooting display, the Badgers clung to just a 44-38 lead at the break.
“[In the] first half, Wisconsin just shot the lights out,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “They did a great job, but I don’t think our defense was maybe where it needed to be, but again they put the ball in the hole.”
The second half scoring was nearly a mirror image for the Badgers in terms of leading scorers, with the exception of sophomore guard Morgan Paige picking up where Jade Davis left off. Paige scored 12 points to complement Wurtz’s 14 points in the second half and overtime.
The 27 total points from Wurtz was a career-high, but unfortunately for the Badgers, even career-high scoring nights from two Badgers and an impressive 17 points from Paige weren’t enough for Wisconsin to pull out the victory.
The high-scoring totals in the second half of Wurtz and Paige weren’t indicative of the shooting percentages the Badgers had in the second half. After shooting 58.1 percent as a team in the first half, Wisconsin could barely find the rim in the second, converting just 27.2 percent of its shots.
The poor shooting was exactly what Iowa needed to overcome its early deficit, led by a trio of its own that forced the majority of the game into a back-and-forth affair.
Freshman Iowa guard Samantha Logic, a McDonald’s All-American from Racine J.I. Case High School who turned down the recruiting efforts of Wisconsin, couldn’t have asked for a better homecoming. Logic recorded career-highs in points with 20, rebounds with 13 and assists with eight.
Not to be outdone, the bigger unstoppable force that Wisconsin couldn’t seem to slow down was 6-foot-5 junior center Morgan Johnson. Johnson scored 27 points and reeled in 11 rebounds, dominating the paint against an under-manned Wisconsin squad.
“We tried to front [Johnson] a little bit, and that was working for a little while, but then we had to make an adjustment and kind of stand behind her,” UW head coach Bobbie Kelsey said. “Either way you aren’t at an advantage because … when she is around the ball, she picks it up and scores. It wasn’t all turnarounds. … She doesn’t charge; she doesn’t travel. She takes her time, and she finishes.”
Johnson’s success was aided by the fact that Wisconsin played without its best post player in senior Anya Covington, and though Kelsey downplayed the importance of her absence, there still seemed to be a void in the Wisconsin defense.
“Anya [Covington] being out really didn’t hurt us,” UW head coach Bobbie Kelsey said. “We just didn’t take advantage of what we had. We didn’t capitalize.”
Senior guard Camille Wahlin also chipped in 14 points and four assists for the Hawkeyes to round out Iowa’s own three double-digit scorers.
For Johnson and Logic, it was a stark turnaround from when Iowa beat the Badgers at home less than two weeks ago. Johnson compiled just six points and nine rebounds, and Logic scored only five points and tallied four assists.
In a game filled with impressive performances by numerous players on each squad, the game essentially came down to who was more consistent, and for the Badgers the only consistency in the second half was the constant contact of the ball on rim, severely curtailing the early high shooting percentages.
“I think as this season goes on we’re learning a lot more about ourselves and our team as a whole,” Davis said. “This is a learning process for all of us. I think we’re definitely doing a very good job, and we’re sticking together. That is the most important part.”