The Wisconsin women's basketball team has seen its fair share of highs and lows this year. But since reaching its lowest point following a last-second loss at Illinois two weeks ago, the team has reached new heights.
The one-point loss to the Illini dropped the Badgers to 1-3 in Big Ten play but also appears to have served as a catalyst. In the games since, Wisconsin has rattled off four straight conference victories, including one over Illinois Sunday night at the Kohl Center.
Junior forward Tara Steinbauer proved the star in this contest, as she scored a career-high 23 points while collecting seven rebounds. Steinbauer praised her team's balanced attack.
""One of the greatest things about our team is that we have so many threats,"" Steinbauer said. ""On any given night, one person can be the star, and today I scored 23 points, but I give a lot of credit to my teammates.""
Wisconsin's 11th-ranked defense in the nation lived up to its name, starting tough and staying strong throughout. The Illini found themselves trapped early, resulting in poor shots and an abundance of turnovers. Illinois failed to make a basket until almost four minutes into the contest, and turned the ball over 16 times throughout the game, including seven traveling violations.
However, it took Wisconsin only 19 seconds to get into the scoring act as Steinbauer sunk a pair of free throws to begin her career evening. Meanwhile, freshman guard Taylor Wurtz, who had led the Badgers in scoring the previous two games, found her stroke early, hitting two 3-pointers after less than six minutes on the floor. Wurtz, who has grabbed Big Ten top freshman honors the past two weeks, finished the night with 11 points and five rebounds.
The Badgers took a four-point lead into halftime, but many key players for Wisconsin were held scoreless during the first period, most notably junior guard Alyssa Karel.
However, Karel and the rest of the Badgers came out of the locker room strong. Karel finished the second half with 9 points, and Wisconsin shot nearly 60 percent from the floor in the half.
The Badgers never trailed in the contest and maintained a double-digit lead over the Illini for most of the second half. However, some poor free-throw shooting and foul trouble kept the closing minutes interesting.
""Just don't let your highs get too high or your lows get too low,"" head coach Lisa Stone said. ""We need to stay right where we're at and keep getting better.""
Wisconsin looks to continue its streak Thursday night at the Kohl Center, where they will take on Penn State at 7 p.m.