Hey, did you know that it was "Badger Envy Week" over at Marquette as the men's and women's basketball teams compete against each other? Chances are you, the Marquette fan base, and the rest of us didn't either with the news surrounding the Badgers football program, but on Wednesday night the Badgers Women's basketball team kicked off "Badger Envy Week" by beating Marquette, 71-68, at home in front of 3,308 fans at the Kohl Center.
It took some clutch play down the stretch but the Badgers managed to seal the deal with a pair of late free throws from freshman Nicole Bauman with just 14 seconds left. The 71-68 win surely left Marquette with a case of envy – only fitting since they are obsessed with all things Badgers anyway. As the saying goes – "If you wanna be a Badger, then come along with me."
"I think tonight's game was everything that you would expect from an in-state rivalry," said Marquette coach Terri Mitchell. "It was as full of passion and desire, two teams fighting down to the very end. Obviously we came up on the losing end of things but our players have nothing to hang their head about."
Wisconsin was led by Morgan Paige's game high 19 points. She led a foursome of Badgers in double figures as Paige was joined by Bauman (16), Jacki Gulczynski (14), and Cassie Rochel (10). Rochel had perhaps the most complete game for Bucky as she added a team best 7 rebounds and 4 assists, 2 blocks, and 3 steals.
This type of win is big for the Badgers, not just because it's over an in-state foe, but because of what head coach Bobbie Kelsey is trying to rebuild at Wisconsin. Winning these games can change your season, one that sees Wisconsin standing at 5-3 overall with the win.
"“This is so important for our team, because we can build on this,” Kelsey said following the win. “You’ve got to win some of these games to build on them. It’s not good to just say ‘We tried hard but you lost.’ You want to win them.”
Wisconsin started off the game shooting lights out, going a perfect 8-8 from the field and held a 15 point lead up 21-6 with 15:39 left in the first half.
However, as is the case with in-state games there was a swing back the other way with a 16-2 run for the Hilltoppers… err Warriors… err Golden Eagles…. err Golden…. err – oh whatever the heck they're calling themselves these days, as they took their first lead at 24-23 with 9:41 left in the 1st half. Wisconsin answered right back thanks a Nicole Bauman three pointer to put the Badgers up 26-24.
For the rest of the half things went back and forth with no team leading by more than four points and it was 43-41 Badgers up at the half.
Things would stay that way for the 2nd half as well as Wisconsin earned the largest lead in the half at just 6 points, up 52-46 so it was impressive to say the least that it was a Freshman that stepped up for the Badgers when they needed it against an in-state foe. Marquette's Arlesia Mores attempted a three pointer with 4 seconds remaining after Bauman put the Badgers up 71-68, but she missed and fittingly Bauman would get the credit for the game winning rebound off the miss.
“For Nicole (Bauman) to step up to the line as a freshman and hit two big free throws that we absolutely needed and not show any nervousness at all," Kelsey said. "Her demeanor is very calm. She was very quiet when she got here—I didn’t know she could talk and then eventually she did, and now she’s coming out of her shell. Being a freshman is hard because they don’t know where they fit in, they don’t know what their role is yet. But I told Nicole, ‘You have got to score for us.’ She’s a very good shooter.”
Now this win is impressive, but, do it against Green Bay the week of Christmas and this team has a chance to be the best in the state. Let's face it, until they can beat the Phoenix, who have made deep runs in the past two NCAA tournaments, they are the best team in Wisconsin.
Up next for the Badgers Women's hoops team is a date with Florida Atlantic on Monday Dec. 10th.