UW women’s basketball opens B1G play with victory over Indiana

After what could only be described as a disappointing non-conference season, the Wisconsin Badgers women’s basketball team looked to erase the bad memories of 2015 on the final day of the calendar year.

Having 15 days off to regroup and figure out how to start winning games apparently worked, as the Badgers (5-6, 1-0 B1G) used timely defense and a three-headed attack to take down Indiana (8-5, 0-1 B1G) 73-69 in the Big Ten opener at the Kohl Center.

Senior guard Nicole Bauman followed up a career day from beyond the arc (5 of 5) with nearly a career day on the total scoreboard, coming up just seven points shy of her career high. She poured in a game-high 24 points on 8 of 16 shooting from the field and went 6 of 6 from the free throw line as well.

Bauman was joined in double digits by fellow senior guard Dakota Whyte (17) and sophomore guard Cayla McMorris (12).

It wasn’t just the offensive effort that mattered though. Head coach Bobbie Kelsey has always stressed defense, and in this one that side of the ball came up huge.

Wisconsin forced 16 turnovers and turned them in to 24 points, but that was just one part of the equation. Kelsey’s bunch also clamped down on the big three for the Hoosiers, slowing star guard Tyra Buss down to just (averaging 19.6 points per game coming in) 16 points and holding Amanda Cahill and Alexis Gassion to just 23 points combined.

The two teams battled evenly during the opening 10 minutes, with Indiana owning just an 18-17 lead after the first quarter. Wisconsin opened up the second quarter on a 9-0 run and opened up a 26-18 advantage halfway through the quarter.

It lead to a 19-8 Badgers’ advantage in the second quarter and a 35-27 lead at the half. Wisconsin’s defense did its best work against Buss, holding the star sophomore to just five points in the first half on 2 of 7 shooting.

The visitors were held to just 11 of 30 shooting as a team in the first half, while Wisconsin was able to go 13 of 27 from the field. Point guard Dakota Whyte finished the half with 10 points to lead all Badgers.

However, Wisconsin has been a team unable to finish off opponents all season long. Guarding against that was vital, and it nearly all slipped away thanks to Buss and her personal effort in the fourth quarter.

With Wisconsin holding a tenuous lead going in to the fourth quarter, something was going to have to give.

What gave was Indiana’s Buss and her skill set. She used it all en route to 17 total points in the second half and most of them coming in crucial moments with her team on the brink of blowout or comeback.

Buss had seven of her 16 points in the final quarter, including the opening bucket of the quarter to pull within two points and a key three-pointer with 5:28 left to play and her team down 62-52 before her bucket.

Indiana would go down without a fight from there on, inching closer and closer after the Badgers pushed their lead to double figures. Bruss led a Hoosiers 10-2 run to take the UW advantage down to 64-62, scoring seven of the IU 10 points.

The Hoosiers were down just two points with 2:16 to go. However, Kelsey’s senior-laden team settled down for the stretch run and came up big when it was needed.

Bauman came up the biggest down the stretch, hitting a three pointer with 53 seconds left to put the Badgers up 67-62 and then capping off the game with two made free throws with :04 remaining on the clock.

Not only was Bauman clutch, but the Badgers sealed the game by going 6 of 8 at the free throw line in the final minute.

Indiana hit a desperation three at the buzzer, but it was too little too late and Wisconsin picked up a much-needed win in Big Ten play.

The Badgers hit the road and return to action on Sunday in East Lansing, as they take on No. 24 Michigan State in a 1 p.m. CT game.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com