The Wisconsin women’s basketball team was flying high as the fall semester came to a close, riding a four game win-streak into winter break after a 76-47 thrashing of Eastern Illinois at the UW Fieldhouse Dec. 15. But in a season beginning to resemble the 2008 Katy Perry hit song “Hot n Cold,” the Badgers have fallen off from their promising start to the season, losing seven of their last eight games, dropping Wisconsin’s record below .500 for the first time this season at 9-10 and 1-5 in Big Ten play.
After The Badger Herald coverage ended for the semester, Wisconsin continued its winning ways at home when it defeated Florida Atlantic in overtime 82-73 Dec. 10. Trailing by two with nine seconds remaining in the second half, Morgan Paige sank two free throws to tie the game at 69. Florida Atlantic missed the ensuing shot and the game went to overtime. Wisconsin then outscored the Owls 13-4 in the extra session with Jacki Gulczynski leading the way, as she recorded her first career double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds while Paige gashed the Owls for 28 points.
Then came Wisconsin’s “Return to the Fieldhouse,” where it had not played since the Kohl Center opened in 1998. The confines of the Fieldhouse proved to be just as friendly as they were back in the “old days,” as Wisconsin dominated Eastern Illinois with Gulczynski leading the way, scoring 24 points and recording yet another double-double while Paige and freshman Nicole Bauman dropped 16 and 15 points a piece, respectively.
Badgers lose Wurtz, Brown to injuries
However, just as Wisconsin looked on track to rebound from its tough season a year ago, it got bad news, and ironically enough, doubly bad news.
After playing in the first five games, senior guard Taylor Wurtz, largely considered the best offensive player on the Badgers team after averaging 16.1 points per game in 2011-12, had not played since and during break.
Finally putting an end to the speculation of a potential return, Wurtz elected to take a medical redshirt to have surgery to repair back issues that had been ailing her all season on Dec. 31. Wurtz now faces a six to eight week recovery period for her injury after surgery and will gradually ease her way back through rehab for her return in 2013-14.
As if losing its second-leading scorer wasn’t bad enough, sophomore AnnMarie Brown tore her right ACL in practice Dec. 18, further complicating Wisconsin’s depth issues. Brown was averaging 6.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest in 10 games before the injury.
As a result of the two injuries and sophomore Lindsay Smith and freshman Makailah Dyer transferring out of the program earlier in the year, Wisconsin currently has only nine active players for the rest of the season.
Wisconsin felt the combined absence of both players immediately as the Badgers fell to Green Bay 53-38 in the first game without the pair Dec 23. at the Kress Center. Once again Gulczynski recorded 12 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double – her third in a row. But it was not enough as the Badgers struggled to score, shooting just 30 percent from the field and turning the ball over a catastrophic 25 times, a number that remains the highest of the season to date.
The slippery slide of conference play
It appeared brighter days were on the horizon when the Badgers traveled to warm and sunny Miami for the Miami Holiday Tournament with Wisconsin’s thumping of Delaware State 83-54 in the first game. Four players recorded double-digits in scoring with Paige leading the way with 17 and junior Cassie Rochel missing a double-double by just two rebounds.
But just a day later Wisconsin was beaten soundly by the hosts of the tournament, as Miami handled the Badgers 67-44. The game marked the beginning of Wisconsin’s six-game losing streak and displayed the team’s streaky shooting habits, as the Badgers made just 14 of their 58 attempted shots against the Hurricanes.
Four days later, Wisconsin began Big Ten play with one of its tougher tests of the season on the road at Nebraska – one of this year’s favorites to win the Big Ten. Depth again proved to be a problem and the Cornhuskers outgunned the Badgers 70-52. The Badgers couldn’t find a way to slow down the Huskers’ Lindsey Moore, who torched the Badgers for 26 points.
Wisconsin then returned to the Kohl Center for two consecutive games – where it averages 23 points better on offense compared to games on the road. But the homecoming turned sour when the Badgers fell to the Minnesota Gophers 60-55, despite a late run where Wisconsin went on a 13-6 run in the game’s final two minutes.
In the final game of the two-game homestand, Wisconsin went shot-for-shot with Iowa until an eight-minute scoreless drought in the second half, which proved too much to overcome as UW lost once again 65-56 in another tough conference loss.
Last Sunday, Wisconsin traveled to Michigan and the road woes continued for the Badger offense as they scored only 43 points in the 54-43 loss. Then in its game last Thursday against No. 8 Penn State, Wisconsin was clearly outmatched and its offense struggled yet again as the Badgers were trounced 84-40.
Despite the recent losing streak, a bright spot for the Badgers has been Gulczynski’s play, who has scored 10 or more points in 11 straight games for the Badgers, including four double-doubles. And although Wisconsin lost six straight, it still matched its number of wins from a season ago with a win this past Sunday over Ohio State.