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Friday, April 12, 2024

Wisconsin falls to Ole Miss, rebounds for victory over Tennessee State in Vegas

Wisconsin started the first contest of the Lady Rebel Round-Up as well as anyone could ask for, but shot itself in the foot with 31 turnovers, a season high, against Ole Miss.

In its first game in Vegas, the Badgers (1-5) suffered a 69-44 loss.

Saturday’s matchup certainly was not one that was out of reach for the Badgers. Wisconsin trailed by just two points to end the first quarter. The Rebels (5-0) leading scorer on the year, Madinah Muhammad, broke open the scoring to start the game and ended the night with 22 points, which led all players.

A defensive collapse mixed with a scoring drought in the second quarter caused Wisconsin to fall behind 41-27 going into halftime.

“I thought we competed and we got on the back boards, but you can’t rebound and turn it over,” said Wisconsin head coach Jonathan Tsipis to UWBadgers.com. “We have to turn around and put that one behind us. We have to get better.”

Wisconsin entered the third quarter with a great amount of energy and was able to hold Ole Miss to just eight points. Heading into the fourth the Badgers still trailed, 49-38. Things would not change much in the final quarter.

Another quarter with a lack of defense put Wisconsin out of the game even further. The Badgers were outscored 20-6 in the fourth, ending the game with a 69-44 final score.

Junior guard Cayla McMorris continued her strong offensive play, leading Wisconsin in the scoring column with 17 points.

Freshman point guard Kendra Van Leeuwen, who followed Tsipis to UW, finished with no points and only two assists. Redshirt senior Avyanna Young also added seven points, while freshman guard Courtney Fredrickson ended with six points.

A lone bright spot for UW came on the boards, as the Badgers were able to out rebound the Rebels 45-34.

The Badgers, possessing a dismal record and still trying to find their identity, will continue to focus on taking the game play-by-play. With six freshmen, playing 10-plus deep each game, and a freshman coach, things are not coming naturally right off the bat.

“In some ways, they're all still freshmen trying to learn things from me and trying to figure out how to move on to the next part of things,” Tsipis said.

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After suffering a huge loss on Saturday, the Badgers bounced back Sunday with an 80-70 victory over Tennessee State in the Lady Rebel Round-Up Consolation Championship.

Three Wisconsin (2-5) players were able to find their way into the double-digit scoring column. Redshirt senior Avyanna Young led Wisconsin with 22 points, a season and game-high for the forward. Junior guard Cayla McMorris added 21 of her own and sophomore forward Marsha Howard also contributed 12 points.

Wisconsin had a season-high, eight three-pointers, four from McMorris, two from freshman guard Gabby Gregory and one from freshman guard Kendra Van Leeuwen.

One large takeaway from Sunday’s contest is the low turnover number. After giving the ball up 31 times in Saturday’s loss to Mississippi, Wisconsin came back Sunday and had a season-low 15 turnovers.

Badgers’ head coach Jonathan Tsipis had nothing but high praise for his team following the game.

“I thought our energy defensively didn't go super high or super low, we were able to maintain that part of things,” Tsipis said to UWBadgers.com. “When we got a little frazzled, I felt it was never more than two possessions. We were able to regroup and get a great shot on the other end.”

After an early Wisconsin lead, sparked by redshirt senior center Kendall Shaw, Young and McMorris, the Badgers went into the second quarter with a 15-9 advantage.

Diamond Beatty of Tennessee State (1-4) was not ready to give in at the end of the first half, and proved to be a problem for Wisconsin defenders. Beatty put in six points in the final minutes, bringing the Wisconsin lead to 11.

Young did not take lightly to Beatty’s strong play and countered with a strong effort of her own. Young managed two tip-ins and a free throw to close out the first half with a 37-21 lead.

"I thought she was our energy right from the start," Tsipis said. “She was really active in the wing and the zone, the more we can do that and push things out then other people can get some time and we can continue to build off that."

Sunday’s victory was Wisconsin’s largest margin of victory (10) of the season.

The Badgers next contest will be at the Kohl Center against the Tar Heels of North Carolina.

“I think fans are going to see a very entertaining game and we've got to find ways to make sure and slow them down so we can make sure the tempo is in our favor,” Tsipis said.

Thursday’s game versus North Carolina is part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and is set for 7 p.m.

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