The Wisconsin women’s basketball team (6-2) travelled across I-94 this weekend and took down in-state rival Marquette (6-2) in a 62-60 nail biter. Senior Morgan Paige hit the go-ahead layup with seconds remaining and propelled the Badgers to victory with a team-high 16 points.
After the Badgers grabbed a rebound off a missed tip-in following a pair of Marquette missed free-throws, head coach Bobbie Kelsey called timeout with 15 seconds left in the game and drew up a play to get Paige the ball. One of the Marquette bigs switched on to her following an on-ball screen, and she used that advantage to drive to the basket and finish strong.
It was the Badgers’ second-straight win against Marquette, on a day the men’s team took care of business, handling the Golden Eagles 70-64.
“I took what they gave me,” Paige said. “The big girl switched on to me and I changed directions on her and went up for the right-handed layup and it fell for us.”
Next up for the Badgers is Gonzaga (7-1) Tuesday night. The Bulldogs are currently ranked 23rd in the nation, one spot up from last week. Their lone loss came against then-No. 11 Oklahoma (6-3), but they won all three of their games last week, including a one-point victory against Ohio State 59-58. This will be the first matchup of the season for Wisconsin against a ranked team, but Coach Kelsey insists the team is preparing for the game the same as any other.
“The whole point of every game is to make their best players uncomfortable and make their supplementary and alternative players beat you,” Kelsey said. “You can’t let the best players take their comfortable shots when they want to, and that is what we do every game, we try to take those things away.”
Gonzaga has several perimeter scoring threats, most notably senior Haiden Palmer. The 5-8 guard averages 17.3 points per game this season, adding 6.4 rebounds and 2.9 steals per outing. She will be the primary focus of the perimeter defense Tuesday night.
“Making sure we contain Palmer,” Paige said after she was asked what the game plan would be. “They also have a lot of three-point shooters, so defending the three line is going to be huge for us.”
In the paint, it will be up to junior Michala Johnson to contain a tall front line that features two players towering at 6-foot-5. Johnson says that she will not let them get easy baskets by being physical and making it difficult for them to get close to the basket. Kesley added that her players are going to have to deny the ball to Gonzaga’s players by fronting them on the block and rely on backside defense to help get the job done.
“On defense, I just have to focus on making sure they don’t get a clean shot off,” Johnson said.
Offensively, Johnson, the Badger’s most formidable scoring threat, will look to elude the double-team with passes out to the open guards or a quick shot as soon as she catches the ball in the post. She notched a double-double with 14 points and 12 boards against Marquette Saturday.
The Badgers will look to correct several miscues from the Marquette game against Gonzaga, although the players and coaches insist that they are two different teams with totally different styles of play. They realize that certain aspects of each game transfer into the next.
Coach Kelsey felt that her team turned the ball over a few times too many down the stretch and struggled to finish at the rim. Wisconsin was also lazy with their personnel assignments, sentiments that were echoed by the players.
“It was not the cleanest game for either team,” Paige said. “Hopefully we do a better job on the boards and a better job on personnel … just communicating with each other. We messed up a lot of our plays, there are a lot of things that we can control that we could have fixed in the Marquette game.”
Paige and the rest of her team hope they make the proper adjustments so her heroics will not be necessary once again come Tuesday night.