The University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team (15-18, 4-14 Big Ten) battled the fourth-seeded Michigan Wolverines (21-10, 11-7) and suffered a crushing defeat to end their Big Ten tournament run and season.
The Wolverines maintained a small lead throughout most of the game. Their lead grew to seven with just 3:50 left in the contest, but Wisconsin’s young tandem of sophomore Niya Beverley and freshman Imani Lewis closed the gap and sent the game to overtime.
Both offenses mustered only five points in the first overtime frame. Lewis converted one of her two attempts at the free throw line to tie the game with three seconds left. Lewis finished the game making just three of her eight tries at the line.
In the second overtime, forwards Marsha Howard and Abby Laszewski fouled out within a span of 23 seconds which allowed Michigan’s interior attack to close out the game. Senior Hallie Thome led the charge for the Wolverines with 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Beverley finished the game with a team-high 15 points and a career-high 49 minutes. In Wisconsin’s three games in Indianapolis, Beverley spent just three minutes on the bench.
As seniors Howard and Kelly Karlis left the floor Friday, their eyes welled up, but their courageous efforts will not be questioned.
“When you invest as these two have, it’s going to hurt because they gave everything they had … I love them for that. I love them for how they’ve grown in their time,” Head Coach Jonathan Tsipis said.
The Badgers’ historic tournament run rewrote multiple records, with Wisconsin becoming the first 13-seed to win a Big Ten Tournament game since the tournament expanded to 14 teams in 2015.
Women’s basketball: Badgers survive, advance over Penn State in Big Ten TournamentIn the first round of the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament, the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team (14-17, 4-14 Read…
But, their performance also lit a fire in the team to return with some confidence next season. Tsipis alluded to the impact Howard and Karlis will have on the group next year and in years to come.
“[Karlis and Howard have] helped our program take steps, and I wanted to make sure our underclassmen know how important that is as we’re building the program,” Tsipis said.
Wisconsin’s future looks promising despite the departures of Howard and Karlis. Beverley upped her scoring average by three points this year and steadied the Badger offense with her ball handling and court vision. Lewis, who is only a freshman, could be on her way to a historic career at Wisconsin, averaging 12.2 points per game to go along with 7.6 rebounds per game this season.
This type of showing at the Big Ten Tournament gives Wisconsin a standard to improve upon and no shortage of passion with Tsipis at the helm.