The Wisconsin Badgers (2-13 Big Ten, 11-16 overall) fought tooth and nail at Sunday’s Senior Night game, but ultimately couldn’t stop the No. 18 Northwestern Wildcats (13-2 Big Ten, 23-3 overall) falling by a score of 82-66.
Despite the somewhat ugly final score, it doesn't reflect how tight and intense the game really was. Northwestern grabbed an early lead in a defensive first quarter, but the Badgers stormed back with two baskets from senior forward Abby Leszewski to tie the game at 10.
Then, after fellow senior Kendra Van Leeuwen stole the ball, Leszewski nailed to a three and a 13-10 Badger lead was taken. The Badgers ended the first quarter tied 15-15.
“It was [our] last night on the Kohl Center floor,” senior Sidney Gilreath said after the Game — and they played like it.
The Badgers were able to carry momentum into the second, led by Van Leeuwen’s six points, who seemed to have an answer for everything the Wildcats could do offensively.
However, going into the third, it became clear why the Wildcats have only lost three games this year. Their incredible speed and conditioning was able to space the floor and get open shots against the Badgers, leading to a big Northwestern lead.
Lindsey Pulliam led Northwestern with eight points in the quarter. Still, the Badgers managed to claw their way back into the game. The Badgers entered the fourth down 51-58, a moderate deficit.
However, Northwestern’s speed and skill proved too much and the game quickly got out of hand. The Wildcats took control as soon as the fourth started, leading to a Badger timeout down 53-62.
After the timeout Pulliam immediately hit a three, kickstarting a 10-0 Northwestern run that put the game out of reach.
The game ended as the Badger seniors checked out of their last game at the Kohl Center to loud applause, and an emotional Varsity at the end of the game. As Gilreath said, the game was “bigger than basketball” as the Badger women’s team inspires countless girls across the state and country.
After the game, the seniors were disappointed but not defeated. Their Kohl Center careers were over, but as coach Jonathan Tsipis said, “they still have more games to play”. The Badgers finish off the season at Rutgers on February 27 and then begin Big Ten tournament play on March 4.