In the third game of a Gopher invasion of Madison, the Wisconsin women’s basketball team was unable to uphold its end of the bargain Wednesday evening as it fell to Minnesota 63-50. The Border Battle is now in full swing, as Minnesota’s men’s basketball squad takes on the Badgers tomorrow evening, with the Gophers’ women’s hockey team in town over the weekend.
With the loss, Wisconsin (10-14, 3-9) has lost three in a row and eight of its last nine.
It was an ice-cold start for the Badgers, who scored only five points in the first 13 minutes and 35 seconds of the game. Nicole Bauman opened the scoring for Wisconsin with a three from the left wing just more than three minutes into the game. That basket put the Badgers up 3-2, which would be their only lead of the game.
Morgan Paige went strong to the hoop for a layup with 12:46 remaining in the half, which cut Minnesota’s lead to 10-5, but Wisconsin would not score for the next six minutes and 21 seconds, even though its players attempted nine shots in that time span.
The Badgers hung with the Gophers (16-9, 5-6) because Minnesota hit a bit of a dry spell as well. After a put-back by Gopher Micaella Riche, the Gophers did not score for the next five minutes and 10 seconds. A layup by redshirt freshman Amanda Zahui ended their run of missed field goals, and a three-pointer from senior Sari Noga extended their lead to 17-5.
“We didn’t shoot very well in the first half,” head coach Bobbie Kelsey said. “Which was not for lack of being open, the kids just didn’t knock them down … the shots are there, we just didn’t knock them down. Maybe that’s people getting in the gym a little more.”
That run prompted Kelsey to call a 30 second timeout, and following the timeout, Taylor Wurtz ended the drought with a three-pointer from the left wing with 6:25 to go in the half.
From there, UW would pick up the pace. Dakota Whyte knocked down a jumper from the elbow, and Jacki Gulczynski netted two shots inside on the next two possessions. However, UW was trading baskets with Minnesota and could not amount any sort of comeback before the first half ended.
The Badgers went into halftime trailing 25-16, which was the lowest point total in any half this season for the Wisconsin offense. The Badgers shot 21.4 percent from the field, making just 6-of-28 shots, including 2-12 from beyond the arc.
A major problem for Wisconsin was its inability to get Michala Johnson the amount of touches she is used to receiving.
Kelsey said Johnson was being double and triple-teamed in the post and made the right decision to kick it out to her open teammates. The only problem was her teammates could not put the ball in the hoop.
Turnovers were a problem for both teams in the first half. Minnesota committed 12 turnovers through the first 20 minutes, while Wisconsin beat them by one with its 13.
The Badgers had more turnovers (11) than points (10) until the 2:49 mark in the first half.
“I don’t think that they [Minnesota] did anything special,” Whyte said. “I think we can handle any defense, but most of the turnovers we’ve had this season are definitely our own turnovers.”
The second half moved at a much quicker pace than the first. Paige hit a three, and junior forward Michala Johnson converted inside, cutting Minnesota’s lead to six at 27-21. After trading baskets for about seven minutes, Minnesota led 41-30 with 11:25 to play.
Wisconsin proceeded to go on a 9-0 run. Johnson knocked down two free throws, and then Wurtz connected on a three. She then popped one from the foul line to cut the lead to Minnesota’s lead to 43-37. Then, Whyte pulled up from 11 feet out and was fouled on the made basket, bringing the Badgers within four. She would not make her foul shot, and 43-39 was the closest the Badgers would come the rest of the game.
“It’s frustrating, but we dug ourselves into that hole,” Wurtz said. “If we can figure out a way just to come out and be ahead we’ll be in good shape.”
Now it was the Gophers turn to punch. They went on a 10-2 run, highlighted by the shooting of Big Ten leading scorer Rachel Banham and the post play of Zahui, and the Gophers had a 53-41 with 5:04 to play.
Banham, a potential All-American, took control of the game in that stretch. She finished the game with a game-high 19 points, while Zahui finished with 17 points.
The Badgers managed to whittle the lead down to seven when Bauman netted a three with 3:04 to play, but it was once again too little too late for Wisconsin.
A bright spot for the Badgers was Wurtz, who led the team with 15 points and narrowly missed achieving her fourth straight double-double, grabbing nine rebounds. Whyte also had a decent game coming off the bench, scoring eight points.
“I know these kids are disappointed, and I am too,” Kelsey said. “But we’re going to continue to fight and see if we can get one of these wins.”