For the entire first half against Saint Louis, it looked like University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team had a case of the Mondays. Heavily outrebounded on the boards by a scrappy Saint Louis team and shooting as cold as the weather outside, Wisconsin went into the locker room looking like it could do no right.
But in a tale of two halves, Wisconsin emerged from the locker room on fire, as the Badgers (4-5) rode their hot shooting in the second half and a career game from forward Ashley Thomas to beat the Billikens (2-6) 48-46 Monday night at the Kohl Center.
Thomas scored a career-high 14 points and brought in seven rebounds. Taylor Wurtz was another Badger who came out in the second half with something to prove. Wurtz scored 11 of her team-high 16 points in the second half to go along with her nine rebounds. The junior guard scored only five points in the first half, going 2-of-9 from the floor and 1-for-3 from beyond the arc.
In the second half, Wurtz showed Saint Louis why she leads Wisconsin in points per game, shooting 4-of-8 from the floor and making all three of her three-point attempts.
The Badgers as a team shot 59 percent from the floor in the second half. In the first half, UW shot just 25 percent.
“I think we were getting the same [shots in the second half],” head coach Bobbie Kelsey said. “We had [short shots] in the first half that just didn’t go in. In the second half, I think people really concentrated and slowed down and really tried to use the backboard and things like that to help themselves. The rebounding is what really concerned me.”
The Badgers allowed the Billikens to best them in total rebounds 45-33 and offensive boards 21-6. The 21 offensive rebounds translated directly into 14-second chance points for Saint Louis.
“We worked on boxing out in practice and turning the correct way,” Kelsey said. “Sometimes you turn to box out, but you don’t turn the right way and the player goes around you. [Saint Louis] understands the importance of rebounding; that’s probably the way they’ll stay in a lot of their games.”
Leading the Billikens offensively was forward Lorreal Jones. The sophomore forward scored 13 points and corralled a career-high 16 rebounds. The double-double for Jones was her second in a row and third on the season. The double-figure rebounding total was the seventh for Jones in eight games.
The play of Jones and the rebounding for the Billikens bolstered the team on a night where the squad shot 19-of-67 (28 percent) from the floor. The rebounding also gave the Billikens a chance to win in the game’s final minutes, as the team closed out a 43-36 deficit with five minutes left to a two-point UW lead with one minute remaining.
“We pride ourselves on our rebounding,” Saint Louis head coach Shimmy Gray-Miller said. “The last couple of years, we’ve been consistently high in [our conference] in rebounds, part of that because we’re such bad shooters, so we have a lot of opportunities to get them. But rebounding is definitely something we pride ourselves on. We talk about it everyday; we haven’t been out-rebounded once this entire year. The 21 offensive rebounds isn’t too far away from our average this year.”
Kelsey said she knows that if her Badgers hope to continue their winning ways, they must correct their rebounding issues.
“The rebounding is something we’re going to address; otherwise it’s going to be a problem the whole year,” Kelsey said. “People can look at the Colorado game and this one, and they can say that we don’t box-out or rebound, send five to the glass; don’t worry about them getting a layup because we can get the ball and score. So we have to take care of that.”