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Marsha Howard can hear her collegiate basketball clock ticking. And she’s determined to make the most of every second remaining.

With her University of Wisconsin women’s basketball career winding down, Howard has taken her game to a new level and she continued that trend Wednesday night with 27 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Badgers to a 75-67 victory over Illinois at the Kohl Center.

Howard, a 5-foot-11 senior forward from Chicago, has averaged 24.4 points and 7.8 rebounds over her past five games.

“The finish line is very close,” Howard said. “And I’m just going out and giving it all I have every game, knowing the time is limited, and just bringing my teammates along with me. It was a great game today, everyone contributing in different ways and being able to hold on down the stretch.”

Howard has expanded her game over the years, as she displayed Wednesday by hitting a career-high two 3-pointers in the second half. That gives her five for her career, with four of them coming in the past five games.

“Marsha is playing really, really well for us, scoring the ball in different areas,” coach Jonathan Tsipis said. “I never thought I’d see three 3-point attempts in one game. But she hit a jumper to start the second half and then calmly stepped into the 3.

“It’s not just all of the sudden happenstance that Marsha’s making threes. Any chance she gets she’s getting some extra threes (in practice) and I think the freshmen see that. I think the team has had a very mature response to that, that there’s still a lot of basketball to be played, let’s take full advantage of that.”

Just 10 days earlier the Badgers (13-14, 4-11 Big Ten) suffered a disappointing 78-68 loss at Illinois (10-17, 2-14), in which they struggled defensively and were dominated on the boards in the second half.

But they were determined not to let it happen again, as they outrebounded the Fighting Illini 42-27 and limited them to just four offensive rebounds after giving up 13 in Champaign.

“It’s nice when you play teams twice and you don’t get the result you want the first time to be able to have a team that knew what we are striving for in consistency,” Tsipis said. “The first stat we talked about was the ability to rebound tonight. It does a lot of things. It triggers your transition game, it does not allow them to get confidence baskets.”

The Badgers were particularly focused on preventing Illinois’ leading scorer Alex Wittinger from getting those confidence baskets. Wittinger, who scored a Big Ten-high 24 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter in the first meeting, was held to just 10 points on Wednesday.

The primary defensive responsibility fell to redshirt senior Kelly Karlis, who surrendered just four of those points while guarding Wittinger.

“Even the ones she made I thought were highly contested,” Tsipis said.

That was her mission, Karlis said.

“She has a great jump shot,” Karlis said. “So we were trying to not let her get anything easy and just stay up in her space and really challenge her on every shot, just contest every shot.”

The Badgers ran off seven unanswered points in the final 52 seconds of the first half, punctuated by a 3-pointer at the buzzer by junior Suzanne Gilreath, to take a 36-29 lead.

They extended the lead to 59-45 as Howard hit her second 3-pointer and then made two free throws early in the fourth quarter.

But just when it looked like things might be easy, the Illini struck back as junior Ali Andrews hit one of her five 3-pointers and the Badgers committed a couple sloppy turnovers that led to easy baskets and a 7-0 Illini run to trim the lead to 59-52.

Tsipis called a timeout to settle things down and credited Howard for doing just that.

“The biggest thing I could say is she was the calming influence when they made the run,” Tsipis said.

Howard said she was just trying to reinforce what Tsipis was telling the team.

“It was me just huddling up afterward and letting everybody know that we’re fine and we’re going to keep fighting until the clock says zero,” Howard said.

Howard came out and hit a jumper to trigger a 10-0 run to open up the biggest lead of the game at 69-52.

Junior Brandi Beasley led the Illini with 21 points, with 11 of those coming in the final minute.


ILLINOIS

min fg-a ft-a rb pf a to pts

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Beasley 34 7-12 5-7 0 2 4 4 21

Andrews 25 7-9 0-0 4 4 0 1 19

Wittinger 38 5-12 0-0 11 3 2 0 10

Rice 24 2-9 1-2 4 4 1 2 6

Joens 15 1-4 0-0 0 1 0 0 2

Ephraim 21 2-5 0-0 3 5 2 0 4

Scott 13 1-6 0-0 1 1 0 0 3

Blazek 14 1-2 0-0 2 3 0 0 2

Kirkpatrick 12 0-2 0-0 0 3 2 2 0

Shewan 3 0-0 0-0 2 0 0 1 0

Robins 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0

Totals 26-61 6-9 27 26 11 10 67

WISCONSIN

min fg-a ft-a rb pf a to pts

Howard 37 10-14 5-6 10 0 1 2 27

Beverley 36 5-7 2-3 2 2 4 4 14

Karlis 33 4-10 1-1 7 0 3 3 9

Van Leeuwen 30 0-5 3-6 5 0 3 4 3

Laszewski 16 1-3 0-0 2 2 0 0 2

Gilreath 17 3-5 3-4 0 2 0 1 11

Lewis 27 2-7 5-10 12 1 0 2 9

Hale 4 0-1 0-0 0 2 0 0 0

Bragg 1 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 0 0

Totals 25-52 19-30 42 10 11 17 75

Team totals include rebounds and turnovers

Illinois 16 13 14 24 — 67

Wisconsin 16 20 18 21 — 75

3-pointers — I 9-24 (Andrews 5-7, Beasley 2-4, Scott 1-3, Rice 1-5, Wittinger 0-1, Ephraim 0-1, Kirkpatrick 0-1, Joens 0-2), W 6-14 (Howard 2-3, Beverley 2-3, Gilreath 2-3, Van Leeuwen 0-2, Karlis 0-3). Blocks — I 3 (Wittinger 3), W 1 (Karlis). Steals — I 8 (Beasley 2, Wittinger 2, Rice 2, Ephraim 1, Kirkpatrick 1), W 5 (Howard 2, Van Leeuwen 1, Gilreath 1, Lewis 1). Field goal percentage — I .426, W .481. Free throw percentage — I .667, W .633. Att. — 3,866.

Bucky!

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