It's safe to say this one was a long time coming for the Wisconsin Women's basketball team, both this season and against Ohio State. For the first time this Big Ten season and for the first time in 12 years and 20 games against OSU the Badgers (9-10, 1-5 B1G) were victorious, beating Ohio State (11-8, 1-5 B1G) in dominating fashion, 68-49.
The fact that the win came at home against the Buckeyes made it even sweeter for a team that has clearly refused to give up on a season that long ago could've been over. How did Wisconsin pull it off? Well, they can thank Morgan Paige's 28 points and Cassie Rochel's 14 boards for the team victory.
In fact the Badgers finally found a combination of players willing to score, as three Badgers reached double figures. Besides Paige's 28 Wisconsin got great games from guards Jacki Gulczynski (14 points) and Tiera Stephen (10 points).
How big of a win was this for Wisconsin? Well, for a team that's been devastated by big time injuries and a lot of youth playing roles they weren't supposed to have to play, it's a relief at the bare minimum and happiness may be the right sentiment.
"We’re very happy," said head coach Bobbie Kelsey. "Obviously we needed this like the air in our lungs. We were drowning and couldn't’t breathe. To beat a team of Ohio State’s caliber really says a lot about the kids and their perseverance, to stick with it in spite of the circumstances and the adversity."
The win was sweet, but it wasn't without adversity either, as the Badgers were down 29-25 at the half. However, a 4-0 run by Wisconsin to close out the half showed exactly what this team is made of and they rode that momentum to a huge 2nd half.
Following the intermission the Badgers went on a 12-2 run to open up the 2nd half and it was all the spark they needed, outscoring the Buckeyes 43-20 for the half and easing their way into victory.
So, the simple question is what changed for the ladies? Did a light bulb suddenly come on, or did hard work finally pay off?
"I don’t think you have to come with these rah-rah speeches," said Kelsey. "They know what they’re supposed to be doing and they came out and really executed."
The other key factor in Wisconsin's win? Try forcing turnovers, as the Badgers were on the winning side of that battle for a change, forcing 18 Buckeye turnovers to 12 of their own. They also finally took it to a team inside, scoring a 22-4 advantage in points in the paint.
Finally, the last piece, and perhaps the most impressive one was a Badgers team that went 15-15 from the free throw line to help secure victory.
Perhaps the most telling reason for the Badgers victory doesn't show up on the scoreboard, but in the minutes logged, as 4 of the 5 starters played the entire game. Only freshman forward Nicole Bauman didn't see the floor for all the minutes and she played 37 of 40 in the game.
Why not play a rotation of players like has been happening for most of the season?
"Our little ones aren’t ready," coach Kelsey said. "They’re like little newborns. They just have to get more milk in their system, they are not ready for solid foods yet. We are feeding them little by little and they are going to get there, but again, you go with people you know have the experience, understand the offense and understand the defense."
Wisconsin will take their first conference win and move on to a game against Iowa on Thursday, their 2nd meeting against the Hawkeyes already this season. Tip is scheduled for 7pm and can be heard on 1310 WIBA-AM and the BadgerSportsNetwork as well.