The inability to shoot the ball has plagued the Wisconsin women’s basketball team all season, but that was not the case Thursday evening.
The Badgers made over half of their shots from the field, but still lost to No. 23 Michigan State (18-8 overall, 10-3 Big Ten) 76-66.
Wisconsin (10-16, 3-11) shot 50.9 percent from the field, converting 27 of their 53 shots. Junior forwards Michala Johnson and Jacki Gulczynski were the most efficient shooters for the Badgers. Johnson made six of her seven shots, and Gulczynski made all five of her attempts.
Gulczynski finished with 11 points, while Johnson tied for a team-high 15 with senior Taylor Wurtz.
“You have to take high percentage shots,” head coach Bobbie Kelsey said. “We tried to open it up for them and try and get them going to the basket. We’re just trying everything we can to help them, and they’re trying hard as well. Just a shot here, or a box out there and it would be a different story.”
Wurtz took advantage of this spreading of the defense, but made less than half of her shots on the night, going 7-15 from the floor. However, she was the offensive spark for Wisconsin, penetrating into the lane and trying to get looks close to the hoop.
“I feel like I had open lanes, ” Wurtz said. “We went to sort of a five-out offense, and I had some opportunities to drive.”
Guards Nicole Bauman and Morgan Paige almost broke double-digit point totals on the evening. Bauman had eight points and Paige added nine. Bauman’s two field goals came from behind the arc, but missed all of her shots from two-point range, finishing with a 2-7 mark from the floor. Paige connected on half of her shots, including the only other three for UW, going 4-8 from the field.
Wisconsin attempted only ten three-pointers, connecting on three and finishing at a 30 percent mark from downtown, and the Badgers shot 75 percent from the charity stripe (9-12).
“We did not take as many threes,” Kelsey said. “I think that’s helpful that they’re not just standing out there jacking it up.”
Although Wisconsin had a better shooting percentage than Michigan State, the Spartans outshot the Badgers 62 to 53. MSU made 28 of those attempts, shooting 45.2 percent in the game. The Spartans picked it up in the second half, shooting 48.1 percent (13-27) compared to 42.9 percent (15-35) in the first half.
The main reason for the Michigan State’s higher number of attempts lies in the fact that they had 16 offensive rebounds in the game, compared to Wisconsin’s 8.
“We work on boxing out every day,” Kelsey said. “We have to do it in the game, it can’t be that we practice it but don’t execute it in the game.”
Turnovers doomed the Badgers as well. UW coughed it up 14 times, with Bauman turning it over six times. Not only did Michigan State force these miscues, they capitalized as well, scoring 21 points off of turnovers.
“We tried to be up in our gaps a bit more, since they [Wisconsin] are a very good driving team,” MSU head coach Suzy Merchant said. “We got some good opportunities there.”
If Wisconsin seemed to have a balanced scoring attack, Michigan State’s team spread the wealth and then some. Six of the seven players who played more than 10 minutes reached double-digit totals. Becca Mills led the way with 15 points for MSU.
“We tried to go to our zone,” Kelsey said. “But they still beat us. They’ve got some great athletes over there, there’s a reason why they’re ranked in the country.”
Mills and Jasmine Hines (10 points) were just to physical in the post for the Badgers and provided matchup problems for UW.
“We’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves,” Kelsey said. “We’re just going to put our shoulders back and we’ll get a breakthrough, I believe it.”