A dominant third quarter propelled the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team (11-11) to overcome a 17-point halftime deficit and defeat the Penn State Nittany Lions (16-8) by a score of 69-64 Feb. 11.
Penn State throttled Wisconsin in the early goings by opening the game on a 17-6 run. Nine of those 17 points came from sophomore Shay Ciezki who would finish the game with an impressive 18 points on 5-10 shooting from behind the arc.
Penn State guard Ashley Owusu would put the exclamation point on a 25 point Lady Lion first quarter by cashing a buzzer-beater contested running heave from the Wisconsin logo. Wisconsin in turn made four baskets and committed seven turnovers in a period that saw them score just 12 points.
The Wisconsin defense buckled down in the second period by holding Penn State to 15 points on 5-18 shooting. But, Wisconsin committed six fouls and six turnovers during that stretch and headed to the locker room trailing by 14.
An inconsistent Wisconsin unit emerged from the locker room as an entirely different team. The Kohl Center went from stagnant to electric as the Badgers unleashed a 17-2 run to begin the third, needing just 5:14 to turn a 26-40 deficit into a 43-42 lead.
When the dust had cleared, Wisconsin left their best quarter of the season with a 50-47 lead. The Lady Lions connected on just two baskets in the quarter while Wisconsin made 11 on 15 shots.
Penn State regained its composure in the fourth quarter and tied the game at 60 with just under three minutes to play. The two teams exchanged blows until PSU’s Makenna Marissa missed a potential game-tying three with 25 seconds to play. Wisconsin would make its free throws and go on to win 69-64.
The second-half outburst was once again headlined by Serah Williams whose 23 point second-half contributed to a career day in which the sophomore tied career highs in both points and rebounds. Williams finished a prolific performance with 31 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks.
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Williams’ double-double was her ninth consecutive, breaking a 41 year-old record previously held by Theresa Huff in 1983. While head coach Marisa Moseley recognized the achievement, the focused remained on what those points and rebounds helped do.
“People are obviously taking notice, but its not really about the records, but it’s really about how can she help impact our team and help us get ‘W’s’ too,” Moseley said after the game.
Much of Wisconsin’s comeback also came from its improved navigation of Penn State’s press. The Lady Lions gave Wisconsin frequent trouble in the first half through frequent use of a full court press that initially gave the Badgers trouble. Despite the offense improving as the game went along, it was the defense that was credited with the weakening the press.
“We’ve been working on our defense a lot. And we knew that if they didn’t score, they wern’t going to set up in their press,” UW senior Natalie Leuzinger said. “We knew we could get them [Penn State] in transition so I think just that mindset really helps us stick to our defenses.
The victory over Penn State gave Wisconsin win number 11 on the season, tying the team’s total from last season.
“That was the goal, like each year, you’re trying to get a bit better and you’re trying to make strides forward and so to match it is awesome,” Moseley said. “We’ve got a great opportunity ahead of us.”