Five newcomers got to make their debuts on the Kohl Center floor for the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team on Sunday.
Each of them had moments to savor in the Badgers’ 79-51 exhibition victory over UW-Oshkosh, but none more so than Alex Luehring.
Luehring, a 6-foot-2 redshirt freshman from Verona, scored 11 points, hitting a game-high three 3-pointers, in her first game. It was a special, emotional experience for Luehring, who transferred to UW from UW-Green Bay to be closer to her ailing father, Lester, who passed away in August at age 54 from kidney cancer.
“It was just so exciting,” said Luehring, who was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA. “I have been coming to the games since I was probably four or five. I could tell you the exact seats that I sat in with my dad every single game.
“So it was just so exciting to be out there, it’s really unbelievable for me to actually be on the court playing because it was just a dream of mine ever since I was little. I think it was more exciting for me and I know how proud my dad would have been if he could have been here today. I had a lot of support with my mom and my family and friends being here today too, so it was really good.”
Coach Jonathan Tsipis is counting on Luehring to provide outside scoring punch and she did just that by hitting three of six attempts from beyond the arc.
“Alex didn’t turn any shots down and we expect that from her,” Tsipis said. “Her teammates expect that from her. She knows the challenge is being better defensively and rebounding the basketball for us.”
Senior Marsha Howard scored 16 points to lead the Badgers, while junior Courtney Fredrickson and redshirt senior Kelly Karlis, a transfer from Ohio, each scored 11. Karlis also had a team-high eight rebounds.
Freshman forward Imani Lewis started and contributed eight points and six rebounds and freshman point guard Diamond Bragg had three points off the bench. Redshirt sophomore Grace Mueller, who sat out two seasons with injuries, made all three of her shots to finish with six points.
Tsipis was pleased with the showing of his younger players.
“They’ll keep getting better,” he said. “I think you saw flashes of what they’re capable of being able to do.”
“As we look how we are going to be better, I think you saw spurts on both sides of the ball where we have length, we have some versatility. We’re by no means close to being a finished product with our group, but you have to give credit to Oshkosh. They kept battling.”
The Titans, coming off a 23-6 season, were led by senior Erin Vande Zande with eight points.
Freshman Noah Melick had two goals and an assist, and the second-seeded Badgers erased a two-goal deficit to defeat seventh-seeded Rutgers 6-3 in a Big Ten Conference quarterfinal at McClimon Field.
Noah Leibold, Patrick Yim, Isaac Schlenker and Alex Alfaro also scored for the Badgers (10-5-2), who trailed 2-0 just 13 minutes in against the Scarlet Knights (4-13-1).
The six goals were the Badgers’ highest total since 2006.
UW, the defending Big Ten tournament champion, will face third-seeded Michigan at 2:30 p.m. Friday in a semifinal match in Westfield, Indiana.
Women’s lightweight rowing
Sophomore Grace D’Souza was second in 8:07.622, senior Marilyn Garberg finished third (8:10.840) and junior Grace Joyce fifth (8:16.750) in the championship single at the Head of the Hooch in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
In the open four, UW was 45 seconds faster than runner-up Washington. The open eight earned a second-place finish.
The doubles pair of senior Osgar O’Hoisin and sophomore Robert Krill went 4-0 over the weekend at the Gopher Invitational in Minneapolis.