The Badgers’ women’s basketball team spent their Thanksgiving holiday in the Bahamas capital city of Nassau, playing the Ball State Cardinals in the semifinal on Friday and the Razorbacks of Arkansas in the championship round the next day. The Badgers took care of business in their first contest, but stumbled down the stretch in the championship, taking home second place out of four on Providence Island.

Wisconsin (5-2) was the favorite against Ball State (4-3), but as has been the theme with Badger victories thus far in 2019, the game began as a close affair. The Cardinals successfully answered Badger baskets with tempo and consistency. Ball State would take a lead to end the first quarter with a 15–13 advantage that showed every sign that the Cardinals could hang around with Wisconsin.

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As the game progressed, the Badgers began to find their rhythm from the painted area and the free throw line. Three Badgers would make all of their shots from the charity stripe, and the team shot a decent 40% from the field in the first half. Regardless, Ball State came to play and continued to press Wisconsin into errant shots from deep and costly turnovers. Friday’s game saw 13 Badger giveaways.

Wisconsin, which lead 29–27 at the break, opened the second half on a scoring run but the Cardinals refused to go away, keeping the game spread under ten points throughout the third quarter. The Badgers began to pull away only after wearing down the Cardinal forwards, and used rebounding dominance — 47 boards went to the Badgers compared to just 33 for Ball State — to win despite poor shooting from the field in the final period. 

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The 67–56 victory over Ball State propelled the Badgers into their first ranked opponent, the Arkansas Razorbacks, in the finals of the Bahamas Hoopfest. On short rest and against fiercer competition, Wisconsin surprised by jumping to an early lead, holding an advantage as large as 10–0 straight from the tip.

Wisconsin appeared to control the game throughout the opening half, and led the Razorbacks in almost every statistical category. The Badgers held a two point lead at the break after Arkansas made multiple attempts to seize momentum. The only thing going against Wisconsin in the Hoopfest finale was the scoreboard, as the Badgers had dominated the opening half but failed to show it by converting it into a consistent second half lead.

The Badgers continued to play better than the Razorbacks throughout the third period, and again opened up a lead that appeared to be enough to seal the win. However, the shots started falling in a big way for the Razorbacks in the final quarter, and they roared back behind standout Chelsea Dungee’s 27 point outing to claim their first lead of the game.

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The Badgers had strong performances from Abby Laszewski — posting a 19 point, 10 rebound double double —  and Imani Lewis, who had 14 points and seven rebounds, all of which contributed to Wisconsin’s early leads. Unfortunately for the Badgers, the Razorbacks never looked back after surpassing the Badgers in the fourth and made key free throws down the stretch to win 68–64.

Wisconsin’s second loss of the year was far more tolerable than their earlier road defeat to Colorado. The Badgers played like the better team for most of the night, and failed only to close out the victory. 

The Badgers will remain away from Madison as they prepare to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Thursday, Dec. 5 in the ACC/BigTen Challenge. Tip-off is at 6 p.m.