The Wisconsin Badgers women’s basketball team (2-0 overall) fought its way to a 68-57 victory against its in-state rival Milwaukee Panthers (0-2) despite a dreadful first quarter.
Despite the final result, Milwaukee took the lead from tipoff and controlled the tempo until mid-way through the second quarter. In the first quarter, Milwaukee was 6-of-10 from the three-point line and showed no signs of letting up, but it experienced a dry spell in the second quarter which allowed Wisconsin to get its offense going.
After a stagnant first quarter for the Badgers, the team rallied and took control of the game, leading from the second quarter on.
The Badgers were able to claw back from their deficit thanks in large part to freshman forward Imani Lewis who hit some crucial shots early, enabling them to enter halftime leading the Panthers 30-28.
While Wisconsin pulled itself together entering the second half, it experienced a huge loss when it was left without one of its starters for the night. Junior forward Courtney Fredrickson, went down with a knee injury near the end of the second quarter, and was forced to sit the remainder of the game.
After halftime, the third quarter was all Wisconsin. Lewis made a strong mark on the game and kick started another streak of Badger momentum by dominating the boards and leading the Badgers to the free throw line numerous times.
The freshman recorded 12 points and 8 rebounds for the game and sparked a 12-0 run for the Badgers which included two huge threes from redshirt freshman guard Alex Luehring and forced the Panthers into a timeout late in the third quarter. Luehring continued to be a presence throughout the remainder of the matchup, putting up 12 strong points.
Another Badger who was key in Wisconsin’s victory was sophomore guard Niya Beverly, who looked entirely different in tonight’s matchup compared to this time last year as she played with total confidence throughout the game. Beverly handled all the pressure Milwaukee dealt her way, finishing the night with 7 points, a steal and 5 rebounds.
Wisconsin maintained total control of the game, outscoring Milwaukee 23-10 in the third quarter, and finished the quarter leading 53-38 despite a quick 6 points on behalf of the Panthers at the close of the quarter.
Wisconsin’s momentum continued to flourish in the fourth quarter as Luehring splashed her third three of the game from the corner in the opening minutes. In an effort to shift momentum to Milwaukee, Panther freshman Sydney Levy continued to fight, draining three three-pointers for the night. Levy finished the game leading Milwaukee offensively with 11 points.
Wisconsin’s scoring leader once again was senior forward Marsha Howard, who recorded her second straight double-double of the season. Howard led the Badgers on the offensive end with 16 points and on the boards with 10 rebounds.
In the fourth quarter, the Badgers experienced a bit of a dry spell, going over 3 minutes without a single point. Simultaneously, while the Badgers struggled, Milwaukee junior guard Jamie Reit had no problem getting her offense going as she hit some big shots in an attempt to lessen the deficit. Reit finished the night behind Levy with 9 points and 6 rebounds.
Though this matchup helped illuminate some of Wisconsin’s strengths, such as another case of extremely balanced scoring and beating its opponent on the board, it also revealed some areas that need tremendous work. Wisconsin was 13-for-27 from the free throw line, something that should be addressed. It also saw the downside of Courtney Fredrickson leaving the game early with an injury.
But even with those flaws, the Badgers earned a win over in-state rival UW-Milwaukee. They’ll be back out Saturday afternoon at home against the North Dakota State Bison.