Sometimes you dig yourself a hole you just can't get out of and that's exactly what the Wisconsin (7-4) women's basketball team did on Sunday night as they were downed for the fourth straight year by Green Bay (8-2), 52-38. The Badgers dug themselves a massive hole by not being able to hit shots, plain and simple, in the first half and were down by a nearly insurmountable 17 points at the half.
Why was it nearly insurmountable? Well, Wisconsin was able to muster up only 10 points, a school record for fewest points in a half, and were down 27-10 at the break. The 10 points were due to a combination of good defense by Green Bay and just flat out ugly shooting by Wisconsin. For the half Wisconsin shot just 15.9% on 3-19 shooting.
Morgan Paige led all scorers in the game with 21 points, but the problem for the Badgers was that outside of her and Jacki Gulczynski no one else stepped up. Gulczynski netted her third straight double-double scoring 12 points, 10 rebounds and an assist in the losing effort.
"We couldn't hit shots, that was the bottom line." said coach Kelsey following the game. "We had some open shots at the beginning of the game that didn't go down for us. That kinda takes the wind out of your sails, but again we persevered, came back, but just ran out of time."
As for not hitting shots, just how bad was it? On top of shooting just 3-19 in the first half Wisconsin went the final 10 minutes of the first half without a field goal and the drought was 11:50 in total, stretching into the start of the 2nd half.
Following the first make of the 2nd half the Badgers reeled off 8 unanswered points and were able to cut the Green Bay lead into single digits on an 11-2 run as the score stood 29-21, but just like in the 1st half the GB defense rose to the occasion, forced turnovers and got some great effort from senior Stephanie Session on both ends of the court.
The frustrating part for Wisconsin had to be the fact that they didn't play bad on the defensive end of the floor at all, holding the Phoenix to just 40% shooting from the floor and 39% shooting in the 1st half alone. Part of that good defensive effort was what Cassie Rochel was able to do on that end of the court, grabbing a career high 13 rebounds and blocking 5 shots.
However, she couldn't stop GB's senior post Stephanie Sension when it mattered most in the 2nd half. Sension led the 'Nix with 13 points and fellow senior Adrian Ritchie added 12 points in the victory. The win for Green Bay meant the seniors went 4-0 against Wisconsin, a feat that wasn't lost on them following the game.
"As seniors we can talk about being 4-0 against the Badgers and that's something no one can take from us," said Ritchie. "So, it feels good."
Turnovers (25), points in the paint (38-6 for GB), and a lack of scoring from anyone not named Paige or Gulczynski is what really doomed Wisconsin in the end. Without Paige and Gulczynski this game would've been truly ugly for the Badgers.
"She's being called to do more than what she's ever done before and she's stepped up to the plate," said coach Kelsey. "We need more people helping. One person can't carry you, Morgan Paige had 21 points and other than that you've got 5 other points. You've got to have more production from other people and we have some people that are very capable, but for whatever reason are being hesitant. Two of them are freshman and it's a bit of trial by fire, but they will figure it out."
Winning coach Kevin Borseth had some praise for Wisconsin in the win.
"Our kids got worn in the 2nd half and to Wisconsin's credit they stuck to what they are doing," said Borseth. "5 (Morgan Paige) got lose on a couple and let some fly. They were doing the same in the 1st half, but we really had to work to keep them in front of us."
Wisconsin will travel to South Beach for the Miami Holiday Invitational tournament to close out non-conference play on Dec. 28-29. They will take on Delaware State on Dec. 28 at 4pm to open up the tournament.