Despite a game high 17 points by Morgan Paige the Badgers dropped their regular season finale, 54-48, in East Lansing to Michigan State. Wisconsin can look no further than itself for this loss as they were forced into 19 turnovers that turned into 22 points for the Spartans while they only mustered up 10 points off of 15 MSU turnovers.
The loss drops the Badgers to 11-18 on the season and just 3-13 in Big Ten play while MSU improved to 22-7 overall and 10-6 in conference play, tying for 3rd place. UW will be the 11th seed in the Big Ten tournament and will face a 1st round matchup against Illinois on Thursday in Chicago.
In the win it was Jasmine Thomas who led the Spartans with a nice 14 point and 9 rebound effort. She was joined in double digits by Kiana Johnson who had 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in her 37 minutes of action from the point guard position.
While Paige led the way for Wisconsin, only Jacki Gulczynski was able to join her in double figures with 10 points herself. Forward Cassie Rochel also had a good game, scoring 7 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in the losing effort.
As has been the case with the Badgers a lot this injury plagued season they struggled to score early and often, going into an 8-2 hole in the first 4 minutes. After getting two buckets over the next few minutes to make it 10-6 the Spartans went on a 6-0 run to make it a 16-6 hole for Bucky and it wasn't the same ever since.
Wisconsin's perimeter defense held out well, only allowing a Spartans team that was hitting 32.8% from beyond the arc to shoot 4 of 20 from deep on the afternoon. However, the Badgers only shot 4-18 on their end, continuing to struggle as the worst three point shooting team in the conference.
The Badgers dug themselves a bit of a hole at the intermission, down seven at 30-23, but it could've been much worse as Michigan State held a 10 point lead (24-14) with under four minutes remaining in the half.
Things were far from over in this one and the Badgers did what they do best - battle back in the 2nd half. After going down by as many as 14 within the first four minutes UW began to battle back and cut into the MSU lead slowly but surely.
It was Paige putting the Badgers on their back after going down 40-26 as she had the Badgers' next 8 points on back-to-back trey's and a layup to put the game at 40-34 and get Wisconsin right back into it.
However, it proved to be too little too late for a team that never found a way to lead in this one as the Badgers could only get as close as a 3 point deficit with just over 3 minutes to play. It would never get any closer as the Spartans clamped down on defense, allowing the Badgers to score just one point in the final 3:20 of the game.
Despite the crazy injury bug that hit some of the most important players on this team early into the season Wisconsin managed to increase their win total from last year by 2 games, going from 9-20 to 11-18 this season.
The Badgers conference tournament opener will fall 25 minutes after the session opener on Thursday and will air live on the Big Ten Network.