In the final game of the regular season, the UW women’s basketball team (10-16, 4-12) fell 72-56 to Ohio State (19-8, 11-5) Sunday.
“We got down early and fought back,” UW head coach Lisa Stone said. “We did not give up. We played the full 40 minutes.”
Before the game, the university honored seniors Emily Ashbaugh, Lello Gebisa and Abby Simmons. Stone placed all three seniors in the starting lineup, including Simmons, who made her first career start.
Gebisa and Ashbaugh closed out their collegiate careers with a pair of impressive performances. Gebisa posted 12 points and eight rebounds and Ashbaugh scored 10 points on 4-5 shooting, pulled down five boards and blocked two shots.
“These two seniors (Ashbaugh and Gebisa) have taken their game to a new level,” Stone said. “… They’re going to be two tough people to replace.”
Ohio State demonstrated a balanced attack, as four players scored in double figures. Guard Brandie Hoskins led the way for the Buckeyes with 15 points, center LaToya Turner recorded 14 points, and center Jessica Davenport and guard Caity Matter added 12 points each.
Turnovers plagued the Badgers, as Ohio State capitalized on 18 Wisconsin miscues to record a 26-2 advantage in points off turnovers. In addition to grabbing 15 steals, the Buckeyes turned the ball over just five times, the fewest turnovers for a Wisconsin opponent this season.
“[Ohio State’s] defensive pressure was always in your face,” UW guard Ashley Josephson said. “They are a great defensive team, and as you can see with the number of turnovers we did have, they were really pressuring us guards out there.”
Playing without forward Kjersten Bakke, the Badgers could not control the Buckeyes in the post. Behind strong performances from Turner and Davenport, Ohio State out-scored Wisconsin 40-22 in the paint. Though the Buckeyes struggled from the perimeter, shooting a dismal 2-14 from beyond the 3-point arc, Ohio State’s inside game overwhelmed the Badgers in the victory.
“It was a workmanlike effort,” Ohio State head coach Jim Foster said. “I’ve said before, I think [Wisconsin] is a very difficult team to score on. Our [post players] are not used to that size.”
The Buckeyes jumped out to a 15-0 lead as the Badgers turned the ball over six times in the opening five minutes. Gebisa finally got the Badgers on the board after a 5:15 scoring draught, but the damage was done.
“Early turnovers, a slow start put us chasing the whole game,” Stone said.
Ignited by Gebisa’s lay-up, Wisconsin tightened up its defense and went on an 11-4 run to cut the lead to 21-13 with 9:18 remaining in the first half. Ohio State answered with a 9-2 run to extend their lead to 15 points at 30-15. Despite a late Wisconsin run, Ohio State entered the locker room with a 38-22 halftime lead.
The Buckeyes came out firing in the second half, opening the period with eight unanswered points. Ohio State’s aggressive defense ignited the second-half run with a pair of steals in the first two minutes of the half that gave the Buckeyes easy looks in transition.
After a 3-pointer from guard Stephanie Rich halted the Ohio State run, the Badgers rattled off a 9-2 run to cut the lead to 48-31 with 15:50 remaining.
The Badgers matched the Buckeyes in the second half as each team scored 34 points, but Wisconsin could not overcome a tremendous first-half deficit.
Late in the second half, Rich left the game with an injured right hand and did not return. With Rich receiving treatment in the locker room, the Badgers could not stage a late comeback and Ohio State cruised to a 72-56 victory.
With the win, Ohio State finishes third in the Big Ten, its strongest finish since the 1992-93 season.
Despite the loss, the No. 8-seeded Badgers remain confident heading into a showdown with No. 9 seed Indiana in the first round of the Big Ten tournament Thursday.
“There was a lot of confidence going into this game and there is a lot of confidence leaving this game,” Ashbaugh said.