Coming off a stunning victory over No. 7 Penn State just three days earlier, Bobbie Kelsey was taken aback when her University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team could not sustain its intensity level Sunday against Illinois.
“What a difference a couple days makes,” the UW coach said after the Badgers committed 27 turnovers en route to a 64-56 Big Ten Conference loss in front of a season-high 7,614 fans at the Kohl Center.
There were four lead changes and five ties as Illinois managed a 34-31 lead at halftime. But the Badgers, who tied the score at 35, were never a factor thereafter.
“You can tell I’m not happy about our play, because we can do better,” said Kelsey, whose team could get no closer than five points down (60-55) in the closing minutes. “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.”
Junior guard Morgan Paige (23 points) surpassed 20 points for the second straight game to lead the Badgers (10-12, 2-7 Big Ten). Senior guard Tiera Stephen had a career-high 14 points and sophomore guard Jacki Gulczynski chipped in 10.
UW grabbed just nine offensive boards and scored nine second-chance points. Illinois (13-8, 6-3), which improved to 5-0 in league road games, pulled down 13 offensive rebounds, scoring 11 second-chance points.
“The boxing out is very disappointing,” Kelsey said. “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.”
Senior guard Adrienne GodBold led Illinois, which snapped a five-game losing streak at the Kohl Center, with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Four Illini starters scored in double digits.
“Today was one of those days, you have to grind it out and find a way,” said Illinois coach Matt Bollant, who is in his first season following a successful stint at UW-Green Bay.