“We are, Green Bay! We are, Green Bay!” roared the jubilant Phoenix faithful in the waning seconds of Green Bay’s (2-0) 67-34 drudging of the Wisconsin Badgers (1-1). Filling up the entire section behind the Phoenix bench, the Green Bay crowd created a home-game-type atmosphere that exceeded a subdued and energy deficient Badger crowd.
On the floor, the Badgers seemed to lack the energy and enthusiasm most teams have headed into a rivalry game as UW was beaten soundly on both sides of the ball as well as in the intangible aspects of the game, such as hustle and heart.
“That was a Green Bay butt-kicking,” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said.
Shooting woes plagued the Badgers as they finished shooting 26.9 percent from the field and were unable to convert on any of their 16 3-point field goal attempts. The last time Wisconsin finished a game without hitting a 3-point shot was Jan. 2, 2004, almost 12 years ago. UW’s final tally of 34 points checked in as the ninth fewest points scored in a game in program history.
Green Bay employed a very aggressive and physical defense that completely disrupted the Badger offense by jumping the passing lanes, picking the ball up high and outside the 3-point line and bullying the UW inside. As a result, Wisconsin coughed up a season-high 18 turnovers as the Badgers had trouble advancing to the secondary and tertiary stages of their half-court offense.
“Credit Green Bay,” Tsipis said. “You have to credit them on how they made us take rushed or contested shots. They had good ball pressure, I thought, and were physical which is their trademark of why they are able to keep teams to such low numbers.”
Green Bay jumped out to 17-6 lead after the first quarter led by seven points from star senior guard Allie LeClaire.
“They came out playing really hard,” senior guard Cayla McMorris said. “I felt that they threw the first punch and we were trying to get back into it.”
The Badgers quickly responded in the second quarter as they showed spurts of life and enthusiasm led by forward Marsha Howard. Using her speed and dexterity around the rim, Howard was able to spark a rally with eight second-quarter points, as UW outscored Green Bay 12-8 and cut its deficit to seven heading into halftime.
But the second half was a different story as the Phoenix blew the game wide open in the third quarter, shooting a blistering 11-of-17 from the field and outscored the Badgers 28-11 through crisp ball movement, offensive execution and success off of Wisconsin turnovers. UW-GB led 53-29 at the end of the third quarter.
“They’re an unselfish team,” Tsipis said. “They do that no matter who is on the floor.”
Leading the Phoenix attack was sophomore guard Caitlyn Hibner. The long-range sniper torched the nets, shooting 6-of-10 from the field, while sinking 5-of-6 of her 3-point field goal attempts. Other major contributors for the Phoenix included senior forward Jessica Lindstrom and LeClaire, who paced Green Bay with 14 and 12 points respectively. Lindstrom and LeClaire flashed a versatile skill set, as the duo scored from all three levels and were extremely aggressive when rebounding and driving to the basket. The Badgers had no response to the Phoenix onslaught as they shot a dismal 20 percent from the field in the second half and were having trouble defending the maze of motion cuts and flare screens ran by the Phoenix offense.
As crushing as these types of losses are, Wisconsin must move on from it, as it hosts Southern University Friday at 7 p.m. at the Kohl Center. It serves as a last “tune-up” game before UW heads to Washington D.C. to compete in the Thanksgiving Paradise Jam tournament.