Games are often won on the inside, and that was exactly the case for the Badger women’s basketball team (4-7) as they took down the UW-Milwaukee Panthers (3-6) by a final score of 68-53.
The Badgers accumulated 34 points in the paint while the Panthers got just eight points inside, as the two teams took opposite strategies in the matchup. Although Wisconsin struggled with its outside shooting and shot just 25 percent from beyond the arc, the Badgers certainly made up for it inside.
“Give credit to Wisconsin; their inside game was the difference in the game,” Milwaukee head coach Sandy Botham said. “(Lin) Zastrow and Tara Steinbauer, we didn’t have an answer for them.”
The Badgers were led by a duo of senior forwards in Zastrow and Steinbauer with 17 points each, but the first half was full of offensive scoring runs by both teams. After an 11-0 run by the Badgers in the first half, Milwaukee answered with a 6-0 surge of their own.
There were eight lead changes in the first half, but once Wisconsin gained the lead late in the first half they never looked back. Still a competitive game for all 40 minutes, Wisconsin was able to take a 30-26 halftime leading following a last-second three pointer by junior guard Jade Davis.
Milwaukee was able to mount a couple comebacks in the second half due to its 3-point shooting, something the Panthers relied on all night. Led by senior guard Anne Breland who went 5-of-8 on 3-pointers and finished with 17 points, they shot over 45 percent as a team from 3-point range in the game.
However, Wisconsin held their opponent to 19-of-53 from the field and forced 13 turnovers, a strong defensive game overall.
“Our game goal was to have less than 15 turnovers. We had 16, so we’re close,” UW head coach Lisa Stone said. “Our game goal was to hold them under 35 percent field goal percentage, and they shot 36, so we’re close in that as well. It feels good to play together, stay with the gameplan.”
With the Panthers closing UW’s lead to just seven late in the second half, the Badgers free throw shooting and rebounding allowed them to pull away. Missing just two free throws throughout the entire game on 15-of-17 shooting from the charity stripe, they shot 88 percent from the free throw line.
Wisconsin also dominated the boards, out-rebounding Milwaukee by 15 rebounds and improving on an area of the game that opponents dominated in their seven-game losing skid.
“Since the Kansas game, we’ve made a big emphasis on our rebounding,” Stone said. “We’ve made an emphasis [on] it in practice, and that’s improved. I like the fact that we’re getting [to the free throw line] more than our opponents; that is different than in the past. Playing defense without fouling, and we’re attacking offensively inside and out, which is getting us chances to the free throw line.”
Turnovers continued to plague the Badgers in the game, as they handed the ball over eight times in the first 20 minutes and finished the game with 16 turnovers. At times the team struggled with the Panthers’ full-court press and made fundamental mistakes with several traveling calls.
A positive for the Wisconsin was their passing, as the team did a nice job passing the ball around and finding the open look, especially in the paint. Upping their field goal percentage by 10 percent in the second half, the passing game allowed the Badgers to take easier, higher-percentage shots.
“I think I’ve got to give a ton of credit to our guards,” Steinbauer said. “We told them at halftime that their posts were helping up on the man-to-man and in the zone, and they were able to find the open person, whether it was Lin [Zastrow], myself, or Anya [Covington] on the block. I thought they did a great job of making great passes.”
With a new starting lineup that featured junior guard Jade Davis and saw significant minutes from sophomore guard Tiera Stephen, the Badgers finally found the spark they were looking for in their second consecutive win. If Wisconsin can continue to play the way it did in the second half against Milwaukee, then it could get some important Big Ten wins to open the season.
“I’m happy for our team, we want to try to continue to shore some things up-one game left in the nonconference,” Stone said. “We want to continue to get better, play a little bit cleaner basketball, but the win feels good and again I’m proud of my entire team.”