The Badger women's basketball team lost another heartbreaker — this time to Purdue — at the Kohl Center.
All four Wisconsin seniors, including Kjersten Bakke, Ashley Josephson, Annie Nelson and Jordan Wilson, got to start the game, but they came up just short in the end against the No. 11-ranked Boilermakers 66-63 during Senior Night.
The Badgers held the lead for much of the second half, but Purdue was the team that made the big shots and defensive stands late in the game to come away with the win.
"It's about making plays down the stretch. One word — it's just resiliency down the stretch by us, and I'm really proud of them," Purdue head coach Kristy Curry said.
Purdue had nothing to play for but a boost in their confidence after they lost their showdown for the conference title against Ohio State last Thursday. But it was the Boilermakers who looked like they wanted it more, as junior guard Katie Gearlds hit a long jumper to break a 61-61 tie with just more than a minute to play. Gearlds led the Boilermakers with 19 points, including four 3-pointers, and was one of four Purdue players in double figures.
Wisconsin's Janese Banks tried to answer, but was blocked; Purdue guard Sharika Webb then made a lay-up and was fouled for a three-point play, which put Purdue up five.
After a basket by Banks, Purdue had a chance to seal the game, but missed two free throws with eight seconds to go. However, Banks missed a 3-point try that would have sent the game to overtime as time expired.
"[It was a] good effort by our team once again, a valiant defensive effort. [We were] great on the glass, which was something that was stressed," said UW head coach Lisa Stone, whose Badgers lost both contests to Purdue on the year. "But we just came up short, and I thought we had a good look at it at the end to put it into overtime. Had that happened, I think the crowd would have gone nuts, and it would have been a whole different game.
"They're solid and they have people that can score. I thought that Katie Gearlds' jumper over some tight defense … that was a big shot and a back-breaker for us."
Leading scorer Jolene Anderson had an excellent shooting day for Wisconsin, hitting 9-of-17 shots en route to a game-high 26 points. Anderson fell just one rebound short of a double-double and finished the season in double figures in every game this season.
"We tried to keep the ball out of her hands and force her left because she likes to drive right," Webb said. "We were trying to limit her touches, but she's really good."
But once again, it was the Badgers falling just short, as they have struggled to come away with victories in the close games.
"It is unfortunate for our seniors that we couldn't pull this one off, but, again, a great effort," Stone said. "We just had some trouble scoring inside. If points in the paint were even, then we would have been OK, but that is a great credit to Purdue.
"I thought we had some good looks inside, and I thought Caitlin Gibson did a nice job for us, but we needed a little more balance offensively," Stone continued. "Their defense is long, and our defense matched with them. It's just tough that we came up short."
For the seniors, it is a disappointing end to the season, but there is still a chance for them to end on a happy note if they can muster a run in postseason conference play.
"We're not done yet. We have some damage to do in the Big Ten tournament, and those four are going to lead the way," Stone said, referring to her seniors.
Purdue finishes its conference season 13-3 and will now be the No. 2 seed in the tournament, which will take place in Indianapolis starting this Thursday.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, will settle for the No. 9 seed in the Big Ten and faces the eight-seeded Penn State team that they defeated at the Kohl Center Feb. 16.