On “Senior Day” at the Kohl Center Sunday afternoon in front of the seventh-largest crowd in school history, the Wisconsin women's basketball team cut a first-half 20-point deficit to one, but were unable to overcome a hot-shooting Iowa team to eventually falling 87-78 to end the regular season. UW had five Badgers finish in double figures, including three freshmen who led the team in scoring with 17, 15 and 11 points, in the loss that snapped UW’s five-game winning streak.
The Badgers conclude their regular season 16-12 overall and 9-9 in the Big Ten Conference. Iowa improves to 20-9 overall and 12-5 in the league, and ends the regular season with a share of the Big Ten Conference regular-season title.
The Badgers got off to a slow start on “Senior Day” falling behind 6-0, before tallying a field goal and two free throws to get on the board. The Hawkeyes, however, were on fire from the field, with guard Kristi Smith and forward Johanna Solverson scoring 18 of Iowa’s 20 points in the first eight minutes of action, to put the away team ahead 20-4 with 11:43 on the clock.
Iowa’s defense stifled the Badger offense through the first 10 minutes of play, forcing missed shots and a UW shooting percentage of 13.3 on 2-of-15 from the field. On the Hawkeye end, however, Smith just couldn’t miss and had 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field (3-of-3 from deep) through the first 12 minutes of the game. With 8:09 to go in the first, Iowa had extended its lead, 27-13.
The differences between the two teams in the first half were stark clear. At one point, Iowa was shooting 77.8 percent (14-18)from the field, while UW was shooting 27.3 percent (7-23). The Hawkeyes leading scorer had 21 points (9-10), while UW’s leading scorer Lin Zastrow had 10 (4-5). Wisconsin was getting outrebounded 15-to-7, and the Big Ten’s leading scorer, Jolene Anderson, had yet to record a point. And through 16 minutes of play, Iowa lead 33-21.
Iowa had its largest lead of 20 points, 27-7, at the midway mark of the first half. But at that same time, Wisconsin began to cut away at the lead. Baskets by Zastrow and free throws by another freshman, Tara Steinbauer, assisted in UW gaining on Iowa. With 30 seconds to go before the break, Anderson swished her first basket to cut the deficit to nine points, 39-30. A last second shot by Solverson, to give her 23 first-half points on 10-of-12 shooting, gave the Hawkeyes a double digit lead of 11, 41-30.
At halftime, Zastrow had 10 points for UW, while Steinbauer recorded nine. Wisconsin’s shooting percentage improved to 32.1 percent on 9-of-28 from the field. UW only had seven turnovers in the first 20 minutes, however recorded just nine rebounds to Iowa’s 19. A shooting percentage of 73.9 percent (17-23) is the highest field goal percentage in a half ever recorded by a Hawkeye team.
Making shots and garnering rebounds became of the upmost importance for Wisconsin in the second half. The Badgers recorded just nine baskets and nine rebounds in the first 20 minute of play. Entering the second half, however, UW picked up four quick team fouls and was still getting outrebounded. Aggressive play by Wisconsin, however, got the Badgers to the free throw line and slowly, UW started to creep up on Iowa. With 16:50 on the clock, UW cut the Iowa lead to eight points, then one minute later, the deficit was seven points. A 3-pointer by freshman Alyssa Karel with 13:31 on the clock cut the lead to four points, 52-48 and brought the season-high Cardinal and White crowd on its feet.
With 11:41 to go in the game, Teah Gant made a strong move to the basket and was fouled as her shot fell. A made free throw cut the lead to three points, 56-51. A few plays later, with momentum on Wisconsin’s side, Karel canned her second 3-pointer of the game to bring UW within two, 56-54. But a 3-point play on Iowa’s end made the difference five again. Down the court, an incredible athletic move by Karel below the basket made the score, 59-56 Iowa with 10 minutes to go.
As time quickly expired off the clock, rebounds and free throw became the two most important elements of the game. With both teams in double bonus with 8:30 remaining, the team to handle the pressure the best at the line would likely prevail.
To prove that idea, with 15 minutes elapsed in the second, UW had taken a total of 34 free throws, and Iowa had taken 19. Most of the points scored in the second half were tallied at the line. A game-changing moment in the game came following an Anderson steal and breakaway make to cut the lead to three. A turnover by Iowa on the subsequent possession and a foul put Banks on the line. The senior hit both and cut the lead to one, 69-68—the closest UW has come to Iowa with less than five minutes to play.
With less than three minutes to go, the Iowa lead was two, 72-70, but the Hawkeyes had a chance to pad their lead at the charity stripe once again, and did so to bring the score to 74-70 with 2:45 to go. A layup by Anderson, a 3-pointer by Iowa’s Wendy Ausdemore and a layup by Zastrow over the next 30 seconds made the score 77-74 in favor of the Hawkeyes with 1:59 remaining.
A missed opportunity by the Badgers and two free throws by Iowa gave the Hawkeyes a five-point lead, 79-74, with 1:38 to go. An offensive foul on UW’s Banks gave Iowa the ball back and the Hawkeyes proceeded to score, making the total 81-74 with less than one minute to play. The game eventually ended at the free throw line, with Iowa hitting clutch shots, finishing the game 24-of-31 from the line.
A final score of 87-78 gave Iowa the win and a share of the Big Ten regular-season title.
UW had five players finish in double figures, including all three freshmen who were the Badgers’ leading scorers in the game. Zastrow led the team with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting, while Karel added 15 points on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting from the field, including 2-of-2 from beyond the arc.
Leading all scorers in the game was Iowa’s Solverson who finished the game with 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting. Kristi Smith added 20 points for the Hawkeyes on 7of-12 shooting from the field. As a team, the Hawkeyes shot 56.9 percent in the game.
With the regular-season wrapped up, the Badgers head southeast for the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis next week.