MADISON, Wis. -- Three pointers, points in the paint and rebounds, the Badgers did it all Sunday afternoon in a big 71-51 win over Northern Illinois at the Kohl Center.
The win moves Wisconsin to 3-0, its best start since the 2009-10 season, while the Huskies fall to 1-2.
For head coach Bobbie Kelsey, the hot start isn’t the focus.
“To us, we’re always just 0-0 because it’s a new game, it’s a new team, it’s a new challenge, it’s a new set of people that you have to figure out how to stop their best players,” remarked Kelsey after the game. “We pride ourselves on that and if we don’t do that, we get lost in the shuffle. And every team I’ve been a part of, the good ones, you focus on that team and what you have to do with that team.”
The Badgers focused on what they had to do to stop NIU as they held the Huskies to 0-for-5 from beyond the arc and 20-of-63 (31.7 percent) from the field.
Defense has been a focus and a contributor to the Badgers early season success.
“We do go into every game with a game plan of how we are going to guard people certain ways,” said Kelsey. “I think if you don’t do that, then you allow them to get comfortable and do what they’re used to doing. So we try to take people out of their comfort zone and make them make some adjustments to what we’re doing.”
Jacki Gulczynski drained a 3-pointer to get the game going and four points by Michala Johnson gave the Badgers a 7-4 lead at the 15:19 mark.
Wisconsin outscored Northern Illinois 22-6 over the next 10 minutes to jump out to a 29-10 lead with just under five minutes to go in the first half.
A pair of free throws by Gulczynski stretched UW’s lead to 21 (33-12) with 3:12 remaining in the first half and Wisconsin took a 15 point, 33-18, lead into the locker room.
The Badgers’ continued to control the game in the second half, outscoring NIU 38-33 to win 71-51.
Wisconsin shot 38.5 percent (25-of-65) from the floor, going 8-of-23 (34.8 percent) from beyond the arc.
The Badgers outrebounded the Huskies 47-36, including pulling down 14 offensive boards. Wisconsin handed off 14 assists compared to the Huskies six.
Johnson recorded her second double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Gulczynski finished the game with 15 points and nine boards. In total, 10 Badgers scored, while 12 saw playing time.
Taylor Wurtz chipped in 13 points and eight rebounds, a performance that NIU’s head coach Kathi Bennett sees as keys to Wisconsin’s success.
“I know Taylor,” said Bennett. “She’s their heart and soul, I think. I think she makes them go. She’s constant energy, and she’ll come up with an offensive board when you really need it, a three, a take, (drawing) a foul. Whatever it is, I think she’s their heart and soul, and we talked a great deal about her.”
NIU was led by Danny Pulliam’s 11 points, including a 5-for-5 performance from the free throw line.
Wisconsin travels to Alabama on Thursday, Nov. 21, for a 7 p.m. tip-off from Tuscaloosa.