UW wins first conference contest, beat Northwestern on National Girls and Women in Sports Day

Kendra Van Leeuwen contributed across the board as UW earned its first conference win of the season.

Kendra Van Leeuwen contributed across the board as UW earned its first conference win of the season.

Image By: Leah Voskuil

Finally. After going winless in the Big-10 throughout December and deep into January, the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team broke the seal, as it took down the Northwestern Wildcats 58-46 to earn its first conference victory of the 2017-’18 season in front of a season-high attendance at the Kohl Center.

The Badgers (1-7 Big Ten, 8-13 overall) were able to end a seven game Big-10 losing streak — and a nine-game overall losing streak — to the Wildcats (9-12, 2-5) in convincing fashion.

In their first meeting, a sluggish fourth quarter, coupled with a 12-0 run by Northwestern, proved to be fatal to UW as they lost a 69-40 contest in Evanston, Ill.

But Wisconsin was able overcome its past shortcomings and turn the tables on the Wildcats.

The Badgers started hot out of the gates, shooting 54.5 percent from the field en route to a 16-7 lead after the first quarter, and they led by as much as 15 points in the second frame as UW took a 31-22 lead into halftime.

Northwestern recovered though, as it went on an 11-2 scoring run and tied the game at 33 midway through the third quarter. Execution down the stretch and situational playmaking has plagued Wisconsin throughout its season, as its inability to get stops and scores contributed to close losses for the Badgers earlier in the year.

Tonight, however, proved different. With 4:37 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Wildcats nursing a 45-44 lead, a Courtney Fredrickson layup put UW back on top as the sophomore forward sparked a 14-1 scoring run by Wisconsin to secure the victory.

UW head coach Jonathan Tsipis was very complimentary of his team's effort late in the game, as he praised the growth of his team's composure down the stretch.

"We talked about finishing,” Tsipis said. “When you look at the fourth quarter, to be able to shoot 60 percent and get to the line 10 times and be able to hold Northwestern scoreless throughout that stretch once they got the lead and hold them to 21 percent in the fourth (quarter) and 29 percent for the game.”

Hustle and intangible plays also proved to be important for Wisconsin.

“When I talked to the team there were some small plays that don't necessarily don't show up on the stats sheet that were huge,” Tsipis said. “Probably the biggest play in the game was Cayla McMorris going after an offensive rebound and fouling somebody out. It doesn't show up for Cayla for that.”

The Badgers were led by its dynamic duo, junior forward Marsha Howard and senior forward Cayla McMorris. Howard scored a game-high 21 points and snagged nine rebounds, while McMorris paced the UW attack with 12 points, including shooting 10-of-13 from the free throw line and grabbing seven rebounds of her own. Sophomore guard Kendra Van Leeuwen did a little bit of everything tonight as well, as she recorded four points, seven rebounds, and four assists including hitting a key runner in the lane to put Wisconsin up eight with 50 seconds left.

It was a successful combination of offensive and defensive execution for UW, as Wisconsin shot 45.8 percent from the field while holding the Northwestern offense to a season-low 29 percent.

It was an energetic scene at the Kohl Center, as over 5,000 fans packed the stands in support of the Badgers. In celebration of the National Girls and Women in Sports Day, the team held a clinic with planned family activities before the Badgers took the floor in hopes of inspiring young lady athletes to not just play basketball, but sports in general. The event was a huge success, as participants and their families got a taste of what is like to be a University of Wisconsin women's basketball player.

Next up for the UW, Wisconsin will hit the road as they travel to Bloomington, Ind., to face the Indiana University Hoosiers at Assembly Hall Wednesday at 6 p.m.

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