If anyone failed to stop and look around while at the Wisconsin women’s basketball game Sunday afternoon, they might have missed it.
In one of the shortest games in recent memory – taking only an hour and a half from start to finish – the Badgers got off to a quick start and held off Indiana late, defeating the Hoosiers 65-53.
Wisconsin (11-13, 3-8 Big Ten) has struggled a great deal this season with a short roster, but so too has Indiana (10-14, 1-10), which only has seven scholarship players. Despite Indiana getting 20 points from its bench, the Badgers’ eight players who saw time outperformed the Hoosiers’ eight in a battle of short benches.
A breakout performance by Wisconsin’s Cassie Rochel keyed the victory for UW, but Wisconsin head coach Bobbie Kelsey is still waiting for her key players to all make a mark in the same game.
“There is always somebody stepping up,” Kelsey said. “We know they are capable. We just want them all to [step up] at the same time. That would be nice, in the same game.”
Rochel totaled 12 points in the game – her sixth time scoring in double figures this season – but more importantly grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds. Rochel’s contributions didn’t stop in those two categories either, dishing off five assists to tie her career-high while blocking four shots and tallying three steals.
Even with the well-rounded, impressive stat line for Rochel, she was still quick to credit her teammates and coaches for their part in her stats.
“I know I can play like this all the time,” Rochel said. “One thing that I kind of struggle with is consistency, and I know that. But it’s a team sport. The assists come from my guards cutting hard.”
“My rebounds come from my coach telling me every day in practice that [the other team] shouldn’t get an o-board. Blocks, she’s been telling me how to time my jumping, so each of these are accredited to someone else.”
In the first half, Rochel was not the only one scoring or handing out dimes. With some impressive passing and team play, Wisconsin put up 44 points in the half.
The Badgers shot nearly 53 percent from the field and made six threes en route to their 14-point halftime lead. Morgan Paige had 14 and Jacki Gulczynski chipped in another 11 to lead the Badges in the half. The two players finished with 17 and 15 points, respectively.
Kelsey was content with how the ball was shared and moved throughout the game, leading to 16 assists in the game and a season-low 12 turnovers.
“Having 16 assists is really nice,” Kelsey said. “That means a lot of different people are scoring. Cassie [Rochel] had 5 [assists] on her own.”
“I think when we do share the ball we look really good. It gets a lot of people involved and that’s what you want. You don’t want one person dominating the ball.”
In its loss at Ohio State Thursday night, Wisconsin was dominated on the boards, one of the key deciding factors in the decision. With the 15 boards by Rochel Sunday, Wisconsin had the advantage 38-32 in overall rebounds and more importantly 13-9 in offensive rebounds, which led to 16 second-chance points for the Badgers.
After the loss to Ohio State, Rochel and the Badgers concentrated on boxing out in practice, which was quite evident in the win Sunday.
“It all comes down to every little thing in that game,” Rochel said. “Ohio State, they killed us on the boards. That came down to a rebound at the end, so we’ve really been working on that in practice.”
“Rebounding, you have to have heart to do it. It’s not something you really get recognized for, but tonight I was not going to let too many [offensive] boards go.”
After the first half Wisconsin’s offense slowed down drastically, only totaling 21 points in the second half and eight in the last 12 minutes. But Indiana was unable to capitalize on the door left wide open by the Badgers.
The Hoosiers cut the lead to 10 with nine minutes left in the game, but could not get any closer the rest of the way.
Even with the extreme lack of offense in the second half, Wisconsin found a way to close out the game and avoid falling into a last place tie in the Big Ten standings with the Hoosiers.
“The new slogan is finish strong,” Paige said. “You’ll be seeing that a lot. Today, maybe not the greatest finish in the game, but we got the ‘W.’”
“We’re really looking forward to these next games and taking every opportunity and doing the best that we can with it.”