In front of a season-high 14,657 fans, the Badgers held off the Spartans, who led the Big Ten standings entering Sunday’s contest.
“It was awesome,” forward Tara Steinbauer said of the win. “Especially knocking off the No. 1 seeded team in the conference was really big for us.”
Although the Badgers came out on top against the Spartans, the game was eerily similar to the tough losses they have endured throughout the conference season.
With 24 seconds remaining, the Badgers’ Jade Davis had an opportunity for two shots at the free-throw line, leading 51-50 over MSU. Davis hit both shots, giving UW the lead with one last defensive possession left in the game.
The situation resembled Wisconsin’s last home game, when Indiana took the ball with just under 40 seconds remaining in regulation trailing by three following an UW free throw.
In that game, the Hoosiers’ Kim Roberson hit an open 3-pointer to send the game into overtime and give IU the momentum needed to win the game in overtime.
So, when Michigan State fired up three shots from beyond the arc in the final 24 seconds of play Sunday, the Badgers were relieved to find that the Spartans failed to connect on all three attempts.
“At the end of the game we said that those three misses that they had at the end counted for all the ones that people made on us,” forward Lin Zastrow said. “It feels good to finally get a win in a close game, especially against someone like Michigan State.”
After proving Sunday they could win a close game in the final seconds, the Badgers are playing as well right now as they have all season.
Although Wisconsin is just 2-2 since breaking a season long five-game losing streak, it could just as easily have gone 4-0 over the same stretch.
“This is the perfect time to play the way we are, especially against two good teams,” Zastrow said. “We’re creating a lot of momentum going into the Big Ten Tournament.”
Following the overtime home loss against the Hoosiers, the Badgers let a victory slip through their hands on the road against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Wisconsin led 32-30 at the half, the first time they went to the locker room with a lead after the first half since leading 24-15 against Penn State, a game they went on to lose in overtime.
Unfortunately, they came out flat in the second half, going scoreless in the first five minutes of play while going 0-for-8 from the floor during that period.
If UW could have won the game in Iowa City, it would currently be riding a four-game winning streak with a chance to extend it to five games before heading into the Big Ten Tournament.
Despite the two losses, the Badgers feel they are peaking at just the right time of the year.
“This team is getting hot at the right time, and these Badgers are a great group of young women,” UW head coach Lisa Stone said following Sunday’s win. “I’m so lucky and proud to coach them every single day, and I’m looking forward to making a big run here late.”
The way the Badgers have improved of late has a lot to do with the greater balance in scoring they have achieved over the entire 40 minutes of each game to overcome the loss of Mariah Dunham following her dismissal from the team.
One player who has really stepped up over the Badgers’ recent stretch is Steinbauer, who has done an excellent job filling in for Dunham.
In the last four games, Wisconsin has had at least three players score in double figures in each game. In the last two, the Badgers had five players reach double figures at Iowa and four at home Sunday against Michigan State.
“If we can get that kind of even scoring distribution every game, I think we’re going to be in pretty good shape,” Steinbauer said. “I think it’s just one of those things that comes the more you play together. We’ve just been doing a really fantastic job of sharing the ball recently, and it’s really shown in our scoring.”