Coming off a disappointing performance against their in-state rivals, the Badgers (2-1) bounced back with a 77-74 win against a tough Southern University (1-2) team Monday night. Sophomore forward Abby Laszewski led the way for UW as she had a career-high 25 points in UW’s victory.
Laszewski put the team on her back and carried UW from the beginning of the game as she scored 10 first-quarter points to give the Badgers a 17-9 lead going into the second quarter.
The sophomore forward took advantage of Southern’s leading scorer Briana Green suffering a facial injury early in the game and dominated inside early and often.
“I think Southern became much more of an equal opportunity team when [Green] went out,” Wisconsin head coach Jonathan Tsipis. “You could see when she was on the floor they wanted to get her the ball and if she wasn’t able to get the ball their offense stuttered.”
Still, even with Green’s injury the Badgers only led by three points at halftime, 35-32. Coming out of halftime, it looked like Southern University had made the proper adjustments as they went on a 12-4 run to open the period. Suzanne Gilreath and Cayla McMorris, however, would stop the bleeding as Gilreath drained back-to-back threes to close the gap. McMorris would get fouled on the ensuing offensive possession and make both of her free throws to tie the game 47-47.
Southern and Wisconsin would trade blows throughout the remainder of the quarter and the Jaguars led 58-57 heading into the final frame.
The fourth quarter would prove to be a nail-biter for Badger fans as it came down to the final minute of play.
Southern’s leading scorer on the night Samantha Duncan missed a 3-pointer that would have put Southern up by four with a minute left but freshman guard Niya Beverley came down with the miss.
As Beverly dribbled the ball up to half-court, Tsipis called a timeout to draw up a play that was going to decide the Badgers’ fate.
As the Badgers worked it around the perimeter it came to Beverley with about six seconds left on the shot clock. Beverley tossed it down to Laszewski on the left block with four seconds left on the shot clock. Laszewski caught the ball with a Jaguar defender on her back, faked right and then spun left as she laid the ball in just as the shot clock expired to give UW a 75-74 lead with 25 seconds left.
The Kohl Center erupted in a thunderous roar and the energy continued into Southern’s ensuing offensive possession. Southern struggled to communicate effectively on its pivotal offensive possession, however, as the fans screamed. Eventually the Jaguars managed to get the ball to junior center Sarai Blissett.
Blissett rose up on a turnaround jumper to put the Jaguars into the lead and overshot the hoop as Cayla McMorris collected her career-high 13th rebound of the night and was immediately fouled.
McMorris would make the two ensuing free throws to bring her up to 21 points on the night and Southern’s last second heave was unsuccessful.
But it was Laszewski who was so important for the Badgers as she finished with 25 points and five rebounds.
“We knew I would have a few inches on Southern’s forwards, so the game plan was for me to duck in as much as possible and convert the opportunities that my teammates created for me.”