Wisconsin beats NDSU 64-53 despite shaky start

Senior forward Marsha Howard recently became the seventh Wisconsin player to record 1,000 career points, and will finish her career at the Kohl Center Thursday night against Ohio State.

Senior forward Marsha Howard recently became the seventh Wisconsin player to record 1,000 career points, and will finish her career at the Kohl Center Thursday night against Ohio State.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

The Wisconsin Badgers (3-0) got off to a shaky start during Saturday’s matchup against the North Dakota State (2-2) Bison, but they still were able to seal a 64-53 victory.

The Badgers won the tip, but redshirt senior guard Kelly Karlis missed an easy layup to start the game. That missed layup was just the first of many misses in the first few minutes as UW struggled to get going.

However, senior forward Marsha Howard stepped up and put the first points on the board for Wisconsin. The Badgers trailed for a majority of the first quarter until redshirt freshman Alex Luehring drained a huge three-pointer. Then freshman forward Imani Lewis made an “and-one” on the next play down the court, putting the Badgers up 11-10 with under three minutes left in the first quarter.

The last few minutes of the first quarter were back and forth. Luehring put the Badgers ahead 15-13 with one minute left when she drained another three, but Bison senior guard Marina Fernandez intercepted a cross-court pass from the Badgers and made a layup at the buzzer to tie it up 15-15.

The Bison went on a bit of a run to start the second quarter, but the Badgers soon curtailed their momentum. Both junior center Abby Laszewski and sophomore guard Niya Beverley recorded their first points of the game with back-to-back points to put Wisconsin ahead 30-23.

After that, everything favored Wisconsin.

Lewis continued to build off her success from the first quarter and finished the half with 12 points. Karlis finally got in a groove with one layup followed by a second at the buzzer to finish the first half with six points. The Badgers went on a 17-2 run to close the first half and led 36-25 at the break.

Bison sophomore guard Michelle Gaislerova came out and put up the first points of the half in an attempt to lessen their daunting deficit, but the Bison seemed flustered following Lewis’ second “and-one” of the game, which led them to commit two offensive fouls, both drawn by junior guard Kendra Van Leeuwen.

With under two minutes to play in the quarter, it became a three-point shootout. NDSU junior guard Tyrah Spencer started the success from behind the arc, fueling Gaislerova and Fernandez to hit another three. This spur brought the Bison within reach of the game, and UW head coach Jonathan Tsipis was not pleased.

“We let them get confidence," said Tsipis. “In the third quarter they shoot 64 percent, they get themselves back in the game, and it is amazing how confidence can get you over being tired, having a limited bench, and they get it to one.”

However, Luehring responded to ND State’s success in the final minutes of the quarter and drained her own three in order to help keep the Badgers ahead 50-46.

The Badgers began the fourth quarter applying major pressure to the Bison shooters, yet Gaislerova was still able to find her sweet spot. At the five-minute mark, sophomore forward Emily Dietz scored and put ND State behind by only five.

Laszewski responded with a quick bucket, bringing the score to 58-51. Next, Karlis hit a mid-range jumper with 3:29 left in the fourth quarter to bring the Badger lead back to double-digits. Gaislerova continued to fight, but the Badgers held their ground for the win.

Lewis was undoubtedly the star of the game with 19 points and seven rebounds. Howard and Karlis trailed closed behind, each with 11 points. For the Bison, Gaislerova led the team with 18 points, followed by Fernandez, who had nine.

Though Lewis is just a freshman and the pace of college ball can be a big transition, she seems to have fared well thus far, and senior leaders like Howard have noticed this.

“I tell all my freshman just go out there and play basketball. You have been playing it all this time, it is nothing new. They tend to get frustrated a lot and scared to make mistakes, so I pull them to the side and say just breathe, have confidence in yourself and just breathe. And Imani had tremendous confidence, and she has had confidence throughout the games we have been playing,” Howard said.

The Badgers also improved from the free-throw line this game. Lewis, who struggled in game prior, went 7-7 from the line and acknowledged that her skills needed work.

“Mentally I knew that I had been struggling free-throw wise and was not satisfied with the outcome,” Lewis said. “I have been staying after practice just shooting free throws, coming in on off days shooting free throws.”

Next game, Wisconsin will look to build on their success as it takes on an undefeated IUPUI Jaguars team on Monday. 

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