Strong second half gives Badger women 73-62 win at Illinois - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Strong second half gives Badger women 73-62 win at Illinois

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The Wisconsin women's basketball team snapped a four-game losing streak and picked up its second Big Ten Conference road victory of the season with a 73-62 win at Illinois on Sunday afternoon. With the win, the Badgers (8-13 overall, 4-7 Big Ten) surpassed their conference win total from the last two seasons and earned one more road triumph than they had all last season.

Two fast-paced scoring offenses made for an exciting first half for the Badgers and the Fighting Illini (11-11, 2-7). The game was tied 10 times in the first half.

After a lot of back-and-forth scoring in the first five minutes, both teams hit a cold run and did not score for more than three minutes until sophomore Malayna Johnson ended the shooting slump with a jumper at 6:25 to give the Badgers a 24-22 advantage.

Two back-to-back jumpers from fifth-year senior Cassie Rochel and two made free throws from senior AnnMarie Brown gave the Badgers the largest lead of the half (1:21) at 30-26, a lead they would not relinquish for the remainder of the contest.

Johnson tied her career high with seven boards in the first half and ended with a new career best of 11 rebounds for the game. The sophomore forward also had two blocks.

“When you're 6-4, you have to make people believe you're 6-4,” Wisconsin head coach Bobbie Kelsey said. “We're proud of Malayna because we've been waiting on this performance.”

The Badgers came out with a hot start in the second half, taking a quick 11-point lead. A 3-point bucket from Nicole Bauman capped a quick 9-2 run to take a 39-28 lead with 17:05 to play in the game.

Bauman got hot behind the arc after scoring only two points in the first half. She drained four 3-point shots over a five-minute stretch to give her 14 points in the first eight minutes of the second half and give the Badgers a 53-37 lead at 12:18.

The Illini had foul trouble for much of the game as their top two scorers - Chatrice White and Ivory Crawford – both fouled out of the game. White fouled out with 10:35 to play while Crawford lasted until 2:30.   

Wisconsin led by as many as 18 points (57-39) but the Illini slowly cut into the Badger lead. An 11-2 run from Illinois fueled by a huge 3-point shot from Ashley McConnell and two jump shots from Crawford to pull the Illini with nine (60-51) with 7:39 to play.

Illinois would get no closer as UW went 8-for-8 from the free throw line over the last 4:39.

Bauman finished with a game-high 21 points, marking the third-consecutive game she has had more than 20 points. Nineteen of Bauman's points came in the second half where she went 5-of-9 (55.6 percent) from beyond the arc.

“Nicole was great,” Kelsey added. “She's a great shooter and is on a hot streak right now. Her teammates are finding her and she's knocking them down. She's a force out there and she's giving other people an opportunity to score because so much attention has to be paid to her.”

One difference in the game was on the boards. UW outrebounded Illinois 50-35, marking a season high for the Badgers. The Badgers were led by Johnson and fifth-year senior Cassie Rochel, who added 11 rebounds apiece.

“We did a great job on the boards,” Kelsey said. “They got a little spread out and gave us an opportunity to get some offensive boards.”

Rochel's three blocks in the game moved her career total to 159 blocks, giving her sole possession of second place all-time at Wisconsin.

Both teams did not perform strongly from the free-throw line with Wisconsin sinking only 16-of-27 (59.3 percent) at the courtesy stripe and Illinois shooting 53.8 percent (7-of-13).

Wisconsin shot 66.7 percent from 3-point range in the second half after shooting just 11.1 percent in the first half. UW ended shooting 44.6 percent (25-of-56) from the field while the Illini finished at 34.8 percent (24-of-69). This is the sixth-straight game the Badgers have shot over 42 percent.

UW played very unselfishly with six players tallying at least five points. The Badgers finished with three players in double figures. Juniors Dakota Whyte and Tessa Cichy posted 15 points and 12 points, respectively.

Wisconsin had 22 turnovers while the Illini compiled 15 giveaways but the Badgers capitalized on the opportunities, putting up 20 points off Illinois turnovers.

The Badgers take a week off before hosting No. 20 Iowa on Feb. 8 at 2 p.m. in the Kohl Center for a pink game, raising breast cancer awareness. 

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