It was Scout Day at the Kohl Center Sunday afternoon, but the Badgers were unable to pull out a victory for their young fans that contributed to the season-high crowd of 7,406.
Wisconsin (9-10, 2-5 Big Ten) suffered their third-straight loss at the hands of Michigan (13-5, 5-2), 60-44.
The main downfall for the Badgers was their low shooting percentage hitting only a third of their shots over the course of the game (33.3 percent) and shot a dismal 20.8 percent from behind the arc (5-24).
“We’re missing a lot of little shots around the basket,” head coach Bobbie Kelsey said. “We just have to get in the gym and shoot more, and not just shoot threes. We’re shooting too many threes. We have to get to the basket.”
Kelsey was visibly upset with the number of three’s her team took, wanting her players to not be as one-dimensional and to be more dynamic on the court.
“You have to have a mid-range game, you have to have a finish-at-the-basket game,” Kelsey said. “You have to be a complete player.”
The Badgers’ offensive scheme almost contradicts what Kelsey said. The offense is set up to feed junior forward Michala Johnson down low in an “inside-out” set up. If Johnson draws the double team, she is instructed to kick the ball back out for an open shot, but Wisconsin opted to take nearly half of its field goal attempts from three-point range. Perhaps if the Badgers converted on more than five of those 24 attempts Kelsey would not have minded as much.
An exception to the poor shooting was junior forward Michala Johnson. She was 6-11 from the field, and displayed some nifty footwork on the low block to create easy layups. However, she was weak at the foul line at pivotal points in the game, going 3-8 from the charity stripe, but still finished with a game-high 15 points.
Nicole Bauman also shot well for the Badgers. The sophomore point guard has stepped into the starting role nicely finishing with 13 points Sunday. She was 3-8 (5-11 from the field) from behind the arc and kept the Badgers in the game, even putting them up 31-29 with 17:13 left in the second half.
“I think we need to make smarter decisions as a whole,” Bauman said of shot selection. “Some shots we take are really good shots and we are just not hitting them, so I think we need to keep working on it.”
Though Johnson and Bauman were able to carry the brunt of the scoring, the Badgers couldn’t get anyone else going to create more offensive balance.
All year Wisconsin has failed to find a third scorer in order to compete in tight games. The other three starters, senior Morgan Paige, senior Taylor Wurtz and junior Jacki Gulczynski were a combined 4-22 from the field and 2-12 from downtown.
Paige did not connect on any of her shots from the field and only got to the foul line once.
Gulczynksi was 3-9 with 7 points, and Wurtz was held scoreless in the first half. She only had one make on five shots — a three-pointer early in the second half.
“Those two just wanted to shoot threes,” Kelsey said of Gulczynski and Wurtz. “Taylor needs to spot up and shoot, sometimes she dribbles and dribbles. I think she’s just struggling to find her flow.”
Kelsey also cited Wurtz’s back injury from last season as a potential cause of her recent struggles.
The Wolverines head coach Kim Barnes Arico devised a game plan to neutralize both Paige and Wurtz. For Wurtz, she had her best defender, junior Nicole Elmblad, blanket her up and down the court. She said Paige is at her best in transition, so by limiting turnovers and marking her quickly in transition they were able to quiet her.
“She is sensational in the open court and she’s really good with the basketball in her hands,” Barnes Arico said. “So we took away the paint and the drives and forced her to become an outside shooter.”
The frustrating part for Wisconsin is they are always in it until the end despite the measly shooting statistics. One could only imagine the potential for this team if they put the ball in the hoop with more consistency and frequency.
“We’ll work on it,” Kelsey said.