A lights-out shooting effort in the first half carried the Wisconsin women’s basketball team for much of the night, but overtime proved too much for the Badgers.
After making more than half their attempts from the field in the first half Thursday night, Wisconsin (8-14, 4-6) faltered in the extra period and fell to the Iowa Hawkeyes (13-10, 5-5) 85-79 at the Kohl Center.
With UW’s second-leading scorer, forward Anya Covington, on the sidelines due to an illness, guard Taylor Wurtz led Wisconsin with a career-high 27 points. Guard Jade Davis also topped her career best with 16. For Iowa, center Morgan Johnson carried the Hawkeyes with 27 points, and guard Samantha Logic scored 20.
“[Johnson] does a great job of catching and finishing at the basket,” Wisconsin head coach Bobbie Kelsey said. “When she’s around the ball, she picks it up and scores.”
The Badgers, who entered Thursday night averaging the second-fewest points in the Big Ten (59.1 per game), sprinted into halftime with a 44-38 lead thanks to 18-for-31 shooting (58.1 percent). That included 8-for-11 (72.7 percent) shooting from behind the arc, thanks in large part to Davis’ 4-of-5 3-point shooting. Davis was 6-for-7 in the first half but finished 6-for-10, as all of her points came in the first half.
“We played much better defense in the second half,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “Obviously defended the three better, kept track of Jade Davis much better. She had an outstanding first half, and we just really tried hard to keep track of her in the second half and not let her get those open looks.”
“In the first half, I was looking for my shot a lot more,” Davis added. “In the second half, I kind of strayed away from it. … I just have to keep attacking them back, which I stopped.”
Wisconsin’s largest lead came at the 17:41 mark in the second half, when guard Morgan Paige sunk two free throws to put the Badgers ahead 50-40. Paige finished with 17 points on 5-of-12 shooting.
Over the next three minutes, both teams traded baskets. More free throws from Paige put Wisconsin up 56-48 with 14:32 remaining, but over the next 6:47, Iowa put together a 12-0 run that seemed to deflate the Badgers. Two free throws by forward/center Cassie Rochel (eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks) put Wisconsin back on the board and made the score 60-58 in favor of Iowa with 8:45 to go.
“We didn’t score for [nearly] eight minutes,” Kelsey said. “You can’t be out there not scoring for eight minutes. That’s unheard of if you’re going to try to win a game.”
The remainder of regulation stayed relatively close, with the lead swinging no larger than five points on either side. After a 3-pointer by Paige at the 5:26 mark, the Badgers drew within two points at 68-66. Three minutes later, Iowa’s Kamille Wahlin put the Hawkeyes up 73-68 with two free throws. Wahlin finished with 14 points, four rebounds and four assists.
On Wisconsin’s next possession, Wurtz was fouled as she drove for a layup. UW’s leading scorer hit both free throws to bring the Badgers within three with 2:05 to go. After Iowa got four shot attempts on their next trip down the court – three from behind the arc – Wurtz tied the game on a trey of her own off a nice drive-and-kick from Paige with 1:10 remaining.
The Badgers gained possession of the ball and called timeout with 28 seconds remaining on the clock, setting up their final play of regulation. Paige drove to her left but was unable to get a layup attempt off before the shot clock expired. On the other end, Iowa failed to connect with seven seconds on the clock.
“It was unfortunate that Morgan couldn’t make that shot; she usually does,” Kelsey said. “She was trying really hard to make that shot, but it didn’t come down to that shot.”
In overtime, the Badgers fell cold, hitting just 3-of-10 shots. Iowa, meanwhile, was 4-for-7 and reached the free throw line six times, converting four. The teams traded possessions to open the extra period, with a Rochel jumper tying the game at 77-77 with 2:48 left. Wurtz had a solid attempt at a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left but air-balled it.
In the scrum for the rebound, Iowa guard Jaime Printy appeared to get tangled up and fell to the floor clutching her left knee. She stayed down for several minutes before being helped off the court, unable to put pressure on her left leg.
Wisconsin was unable to muster any more offense until guard AnnMarie Brown sunk a layup at the buzzer with the game already out of hand.
“We needed one more person scoring a little bit more with Anya being out,” Kelsey said. “We’re not a one-person band here. Obviously we missed her, but we had enough to win the game, and we didn’t pull it out.”