MADISON, Wis. - Despite four Badgers scoring in double-digits and a comeback in the second half to send the game in to overtime, Wisconsin couldn’t hold on in its final home game of the season at the Kohl Center, falling to Northwestern 77-73 on Sunday.
“I’m proud of them,” said UW head coach Bobbie Kelsey. “When you’re down in the dumps a little bit and not winning games it’s easy to quit, but they just don’t quit. They always keep fighting, fighting and fighting.”
Wisconsin (10-18 overall, 3-13 Big Ten) trailed the Wildcats (15-14 overall, 5-11 Big Ten) at the half 40-33, but stormed back in the second half thanks to balanced scoring and tough defense.
Northwestern secured a 10 point lead (47-37) – its largest lead of the game – with 16:51 to play. But a jumper by Jacki Gulczynski ignited an 18-3 run by the Badgers.
A 3-pointer by Morgan Paige gave Wisconsin the 49-48 lead with 12:58 remaining in regulation. It was UW’s first since 11-9 with 15:45 to play in the first half.
Paige then knocked in two free throws, and Northwestern’s Lauren Douglas hit a jumper to make it a 51-50 game with 12:06 to play. Two free throws and a jumper by Wurtz would give Wisconsin its largest lead of the game, 5 points (55-50), with 10:09 to play.
After trading baskets, Wisconsin tried to create separation thanks to a jumper from Paige and free throws from Wurtz and Johnson, but a jumper from the Wildcats’ Ashley Deary tied the game 66-66 with 1:38 to play.
After two free throw makes by the Wildcats, Wisconsin trailed 68-66, but Nicole Bauman drew the foul and drained both of her free throws to tie the game (68-68) with 25 seconds in regulation.
As time expired, the Badgers missed two key opportunities. First was a jumper in the lane from Wurtz with 3 seconds left, and after a tie up, the Badgers had the ball with .02 seconds remaining. On a set inbounds play, Michala Johnson got the lob in the air and shot the ball only to see it dance on the rim and fall off sending the game into overtime.
“It would have been fitting for Taylor (Wurtz) to hit that jumper,” said Kelsey. “I started to call a timeout, but I was like, ‘nope, she’s got it. Just let her go. It’s Senior Night, just go out on a white horse,’ and it was right there.
“She would make that shot, if she had 10 more, she’d make 10 of them,” Kelsey continued. “So it just wasn’t meant to be, but again, it wasn’t for lack of effort, we just had a few mistakes down the stretch and let them get those transition layups.”
Northwestern opened up overtime with a layup by Maggie Lyon, but Wurtz responded with a layup to tie the game 70-70 with 3:52 remaining in overtime.
The Wildcats used a 5-0 run hitting transition baskets to lead 75-70 with 1:39 remaining. A free throw from Dakota Whyte and two made free throws from Paige cut the deficit to two (75-73) with 52 seconds remaining, but the Badgers couldn’t execute their final plays and two free throws by Northwestern’s Christen Inman sealed the Wildcats 77-73 win.
“It’s sad because we can’t get that signature win, but there’s a tournament and there’s another opportunity – one more guaranteed opportunity – and if you get that you keep going until you don’t have it anymore,” said Kelsey. “So you’ve got to keep pressing forward.”
UW finished the game shooting 37.9 percent (25-of-66), including a season-low 10.0 percent (2-of-20) from beyond the arc. The Wildcats shot 24-of-57 (42.1 percent) from the field and 4-of-18 (22.2 percent) from 3-point range.
Northwestern shot 25-of-32 from the line (78.1 percent) while the Badgers went to the line 26 times, making 21 for 80.8 percent.
Four Badgers scored in double figures, including seniors Wurtz and Paige. Wurtz recorded her ninth double-double of the season – the 17th of her career – with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Paige scored 16 points and logged three assists, three steals and two rebounds in her final game at the Kohl Center.
Johnson recorded her sixth double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Whyte added 13 points, two rebounds and two steals.
Northwestern had four players finish in double figures. The Wildcats were led by Nia Coffey with 19 points and eight rebounds. Inman added 18 points, Douglas chipped in 15 points and Lyon tallied 11 points.
The Badgers edged Northwestern in rebounding 42-37, while both Wisconsin and the Wildcats committed 15 turnovers.
Wisconsin closes out its season at the Big Ten Conference Tournament this Thursday-Sunday, March 6-9 at the Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. As the 11th-place team, UW will face the No. 6-seeded team – either Minnesota or Michigan – in the late game on Thursday.