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Saturday, March 02, 2024
Taylor Wurtz

Junior guard Taylor Wurtz scored a team-high 13 points in Wisconsin’s 81-49 loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament.

Women's Basketball: Wisconsin loses big to Minnesota, knocked out of Big Ten Tournament

The familiar Wisconsin vs. Minnesota rivalry made its way to Indianapolis for the first round of the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament Thursday. A Minnesota team eager to avenge a home loss to the Badgers in the regular season left no doubt about who would advance to the second round, ending Wisconsin’s season with a 81-49 romp.

The ninth-seeded Wisconsin (5-12 Big Ten, 9-20 overall) faced the eighth-seeded Golden Gophers (7-10, 15-16) only once in the regular season, defeating them 78-72 at Williams Arena Jan. 26. This time around, the Gophers used a 14-0 run to take a 28-15 lead in the first half and never looked back.

“We really struggled to score,” head coach Bobbie Kelsey said. “We struggled to pass. We struggled to do a lot of things. But it wasn’t for lack of effort, and it’s just one of those nights where we couldn’t really get it going in our favor.”

The Gophers were not content with a 39-23 halftime lead, and they continued to pour it on in the second half. A jumper by sophomore forward Micaëlla Riché gave Minnesota a 39-point lead with 3:35 remaining in the game. If not for two three-pointers by Wisconsin junior guard Kelly Supernaw in the final minute of the game, the Badgers would have suffered the largest defeat in the history of the Big Ten Women’s Tournament.

“We didn’t quit,” Kelsey said. “We played all the way to the end. I was very proud of the team. They didn’t give up.”

A balanced offensive attack by Minnesota had four players finish with double-digit points, but no player shined brighter than guard Kiara Buford. The senior scored 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting in only 25 minutes of action. Big Ten Freshman of the Year Rachel Banham recorded a double-double in the game, finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

The Badgers shot 50 percent from the field in their regular season victory over the Gophers, but could not get much to fall this time, shooting a season-low 27.5 percent on field goals. Minnesota turned up the ball pressure and kept the Badgers from getting into an offensive rhythm. The Gophers also dominated on the glass, finishing with a 51-24 rebounding advantage.

They picked up their defense intensity,” junior guard Taylor Wurtz said. “But we had open looks. We just have to be able to hit those. And obviously tonight they weren’t falling.”

Wurtz led the Badgers in scoring with 13 points, the only Wisconsin player to finish with double-digit points. In her final game as a Badger, senior forward Anya Covington drained her first career three-pointer and finished with nine points.

Kelsey ends her first season as Wisconsin’s head coach with a 9-20 record, leading the Badgers to a ninth-place Big Ten finish in the regular season. As is often the case when a coaching change is made, there were some growing pains in the first year with the new regime. The returning players are already focusing on how they need to prepare in the offseason with the ultimate goal of winning more games next season.

“We’ve got to go into the offseason everyday valuing every minute that we get and getting up shots and working on our ball handling so next year, we can make a run in this tournament,” Wurtz said.

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