EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michala Johnson kept the Badgers in the game in the first half and almost willed them to a win in the second, but the Wisconsin women's basketball team just couldn't get past Michigan State at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich. Thursday night, falling 71-67.
The loss drops the Badgers to 9-11 overall (2-6 Big Ten), while Michigan State improves to 14-7 (6-2).
"A couple baskets go our way and it may be a different story," UW head coach Bobbie Kelsey said. "We can't make excuses. We've just got to keep pushing and trying to figure it out."
Johnson hit 19 points in the first half to keep the Badgers in the game.
Down by three at the break, 30-27, Wisconsin's offense kept pace with Michigan State to start the second half. A three-point play by Johnson got the Badgers within one of the Spartans, 39-38, at the 15:53 mark and a 3-pointer by Tessa Chichy tied the game, 49-49, five minutes later.
The Spartan's offense continued to score, while the Badgers sputtered and a 7-0 run gave MSU a 56-49 lead four minutes later.
A pair of free throws by Kiana Johnson pushed Michigan State's lead to nine, 60-51, with under four minutes to go in the game.
The Badgers worked hard to get the game within one basket, twice getting within three, before time ran out.
"I am proud of the kids," Kelsey continued. "Nicole (Bauman) is sick, Taylor (Wurtz) is sick.
"They could have easily said `well we don't have enough' and `woe is us, feel sorry for us' and all of that stuff, but these kids aren't like that, we're not like that as coaches. We are going to keep fighting until we can figure this out."
Johnson led all scorers with 26 points. Morgan Paige added 16, shooting 6-of-6 from the free throw line. Jacki Gulczynski was the only player to pull down double-digit rebounds (11).
Michigan State had five players score in double figures, led by Annalise Pickrel's 14.
Wisconsin finished the game shooting 26-of-54 (48.1 percent) from the floor, including a 4-of-13 (30.8 percent) performance beyond the arc.
Michigan State barely out-shot the Badgers, hitting 27-of-55 (49.1 percent) of its field goals and shooting 5-of-16 (31.3 percent) from 3-point range.
UW won the battle on the boards, 31-30, and both teams pulled down eight offensive boards. The Badgers committed 12 turnovers on nine Spartan steals. UW swiped five from MSU, forcing 10 turnovers.
The Badgers return home to host Ohio State at the Kohl Center on Sunday at 2 p.m. in the annual Think Pink game. Fans can help support the fight against Breast Cancer by wearing Pink to the game.
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