Plagued by turnovers and pressured by a strong Illinois defense, the Wisconsin women’s basketball team fell 64-56 to the Illini at the Kohl Center Sunday. Illinois (13-8 overall, 6-3 Big Ten) tallied an opponent season high 19 steals in Wisconsin’s seventh Big Ten loss of the season.
"What a difference a couple days makes," said head coach Bobbie Kelsey after the game. "A lot of our problems in this game were the turnovers. Some of those were not them taking the ball away from us, just us making poor decisions as far as passing decisions we’re making. Even though it’s a high number, we can fix some of that stuff."
The first half of play featured four lead changes and five ties with the Illini taking a 34-31 lead into the locker room.
It was the second half where Illinois began separating itself from the Badgers (10-12, 2-7). UI held Morgan Paige to just five points in the second stanza, after she scored 18 in the first half, and pressured UW into committing 15 of its 27 turnovers in the second period. Illinois scored 21 points off Badger giveaways.
Wisconsin tied the game at 35 almost two minutes into the second half, but would never get any closer to Illinois.
"You can tell I’m not happy about our play, because we can do better," said Kelsey. "No disrespect to Illinois, they played a great game. They did what they needed to do. They had some people step up. They made their free throws. They got their hands on the ball and stole it when they needed to. They didn't get tie-ups, they snatched it. They had urgency. We did not."
Paige finished the afternoon with 23 points, her second-straight game with 20-or-more points. Tiera Stephen netted a career-high 14 points and Jacki Gulczynski chipped in 10.
After shooting 44.4 percent (12-of-27) in the first half, the Badgers hit just 29.4 percent (5-of-17) in the second half to finish the game at 38.6 percent.
Wisconsin shot just 25 percent (5-of-20) from 3-point range but made 89.5 percent (17-of-19) of its free throws.
Illinois was led by Adrienne GodBold's 18 points, her 10th-straight double-digit scoring game, and 13 rebounds. Four of the Illini starters scored in double digits as Karisma Penn added 15, Amber Moore chipped in 14 and Ivory Crawford finished with 10.
The Illini made 37.7 percent (23-of-61) of their shots, including 35 percent (7-of-20) from behind the arc. UI shot just 61.1 percent (11-of-18) from the free throw line but made 6-of-7 over the last three minutes to seal the win.
Despite outrebounding the Illini, 35-31, poor boxing out on the offensive end contributed to the Badgers’ downfall. Wisconsin grabbed just nine offensive boards and scored nine second-chance points. Illinois pulled down 13 offensive rebounds, scoring 11 second-chance points.
"The boxing out is very disappointing," said Kelsey. "Very disappointed that we did not do what we said we needed to do, and we knew we had to do. I warned the team if we don’t box out, we are going to lose the game and that’s exactly what contributed to us not being successful today."
Big Ten play continues for the Badgers on Thursday when they travel to Ohio State for a 6 p.m. tipoff with the Buckeyes.