UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Looking for its first Big Ten Conference win of the season, the Wisconsin women's basketball team faced its toughest opponent of the year, falling at No. 8 Penn State, 84-40, on Thursday night.
It was the Badgers' largest losing margin since falling at No. 10 Purdue, 93-45, on March 6, 1994.
The Nittany Lions (14-2, 4-0) jumped out to an 11-0 lead and never looked back. Wisconsin did not get on the board until Nicole Bauman hit a 3-pointer at the 15:35 mark of the first half. Penn State went on a 20-6 run to take a 31-9 lead with 6:47 to play.
"They really got out and asserted themselves, using their athleticism to rattle us early," said UW head coach Bobbie Kelsey. "I thought we did a good job in the second half not turning the ball over but, again, those first half turnovers really hurt us."
The Badgers (8-10, 0-5) turned the ball over 17 times in the first period as the Lions had 10 steals and scored 17 points off UW turnovers.
PSU led 38-13 with 3:48 to play in the half before the Badgers went on an 8-2 run to pull within 19 (40-21) with 1:30 to play off a 3-pointer from Morgan Paige. But the Lions ended the half on a 6-0 run to take a 46-21 lead into the locker room.
The Nittany Lions continued to dominate in the second half, as PSU went on a 9-0 run after the Badgers scored the first bucket of the period, taking a 55-23 lead with 16:05 to play. Penn State continued to run up the score, with the final tally being their largest lead.
"We weren't executing properly (on offense) but again, we had open looks that we didn't hit," said Kelsey. "It's a tough situation for us, but we're going to keep working hard and keep playing because that's what we're supposed to do. And that's what we're going to do."
While having only nine players eligible, the Badgers' bench was even shorter Thursdsay as junior post player Cassie Rochel was ill.
"She wasn't 100 percent but really played her heart out despite not feeling well," said Kelsey of Rochel.
The absence of Rochel allowed Penn State's center Nikki Greene to lead all players with 23 points and 14 rebounds.
"They got some transition (baskets) but Nikki Greene really did a nice job inside," said Kelsey. "We tried to double her a couple of times but the double wasn't strong enough."
The Nittany Lions had four players in double figures, though Wisconsin held leading scorer Maggie Lucas to just 11 points, nine below her season average.
The Badgers were led by Paige with 14 points while sophomore Jacki Gulczynski tallied her fourth career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Wisconsin shot just 26.4 percent (14-of-53) from the field, including 25 percent (6-of-24) from 3-point range, while Penn State hit 43.8 percent (32-of-73) of its shots. The Lions went to the line 23 times, making 16 (69.6 percent) while the Badgers were 6-of-8 (75 percent) from the charity stripe.
PSU dominated on the boards, pulling down 55 rebounds, compared to 31 for Wisconsin. The Lions had 20 offensive rebounds, scoring 15 second-chance points and 52 points in the paint. UW finished with 24 points as Penn State scored 29 points off turnovers.
"Our kids are staying positive," said Kelsey after the Badgers dropped their sixth straight game. "It's just hard when you're losing games and you play as hard as you can play. There are areas where we can definitely do better but you're asking kids to do a lot when there's a lot on them right now."
The Badgers return home on Sunday to take on Ohio State at 2 p.m. in the Kohl Center.
"We want to win, it doesn't matter where it is," said Kelsey of her team's return home. "We want to win a game. We're going to keep working them to win a game. It's just tough for our kids because they are working their hearts out. We were a lot short this game but we've been in a lot closer games.
"We'll find a way, we'll just keep working."
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