The University of Illinois women’s basketball team (5-17, 2-16 Big Ten) scored the first 17 points of the game against the University of Wisconsin (5-19, 2-18) in the Big Ten Tournament. Wisconsin scored two points in the entire first quarter.

The Badgers’ fortune didn’t change. They finished their season the way their entire Big Ten campaign has gone, with seething disappointment, getting blown out of the water 67-42 by a team they had steamrolled not a month earlier.

“When you play your last game of the year, you want to be playing your best basketball — put the parts together between offense, defense and special situations,” Head Coach Jonathan Tsipis said, according to UW Athletics. “And we didn’t do that to the level we were able to do it.”

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The loss came a day after the Big Ten announced that junior forward Imani Lewis had been voted an All-Big Ten second teamer by the media. Sophomore forward Sydney Hilliard was recognized for her break out year by being named an All-Conference honorable mention by both media and coaches. This had been one of the most talented teams Tsipis had the pleasure of coaching in his tenure.

For UW Athletic Director Barry Alvarez, this was the last straw. Immediately following the loss, UW Athletics announced that they will be conducting a search for a new head coach, releasing Tsipis of his head coaching duties.

Tsipis began the year saying the Badgers’ goal was to reach postseason play. A lofty expectation for a program that hadn’t seen the postseason in a decade, the challenge pigeonholed Tsipis and the team.

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The Badgers’ 18 losses in conference play in itself merits skepticism, but after five seasons and a composite 14 Big Ten wins, it was clear Tsipis was not the man to make Wisconsin a consistently respectable program.

Inconsistent rotations, invisible identity and the inability to build off of meaningful wins always marred Tsipis’ time at Wisconsin. In the 2020-2021 season, with one of the youngest teams he’s had, Tsipis never found a combination of five that he could consistently rely on to fill necessary niches. 

What’s the lineup he goes to when he needs a bucket? Or a stop? Or in the clutch? Do you play small or big? Is Brooke Schramek the best frontcourt option off the bench? Kate Thompson? Alex Luehring? Why can’t Julie Pospíšilovà, Hilliard and Lewis seem to play high level basketball at the same time?

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Too many questions, not enough answers. And it bled onto the scoresheet. Tsipis finishes his tenure as coach with the worst winning percentage in Wisconsin history. There is no indication as to whether or not Wisconsin will look internally or elsewhere to fill the position.