MADISON – For the first eight minutes Thursday night a fired up Wisconsin women’s basketball team looked like it could hang with No. 3 Ohio State.
The Buckeyes put those thoughts to rest in a hurry, rattling off a 20-5 run over four minutes and 23 seconds to take a 30-12 lead with 7:30 left in the first half on their way to an 86-67 victory at the Kohl Center here.
Wisconsin had few answers for Ohio State’s 6-foot-4 sophomore center, Jessica Davenport, who scored a career-high 36 points while snagging nine rebounds.
“That is a pretty special team,” UW coach Lisa Stone said. “Jessica Davenport obviously was a handful for us.”
Davenport scored 18 points in each half, making 15 of 21 shots in the game.
“Didn’t try to force anything,” Davenport said. “Just moving on offense and getting what the defense was giving me. I think it worked out well tonight. We just kept moving the ball and my teammates found me in spots, in good position to make some good shots.”
Senior guard Caity Matter and sophomore guard Brandie Hoskins added 14 and 12, respectively, for the Buckeyes, who improved to 20-2 overall and 7-1 in the Big Ten, moving into a first-place tie with Penn State after Northwestern pulled a shocking upset of the Nittany Lions (12-7, 7-1) Thursday evening in Evanston, Ill.
Freshman guard Jolene Anderson led Wisconsin (7-10, 1-6) with 24 points.
Aggressive, hard-nosed defense kept the Badgers in the game early. Junior forward Annie Nelson did a commendable job fronting Davenport in the first eight minutes, literally face guarding her with a guard coming underneath to double-team entry passes. Davenport, though, still scored six of Ohio State’s first 12 points.
“That was a little trick up our sleeve and certainly it was effective I thought,” Stone said of the aggressive fronting defense.
Nelson took a breather at the 11:36 mark was called for her second foul shortly after returning, playing just one minute and six seconds of the Buckeyes’ 20-5 run.
Wisconsin was 1 of 6 from the floor with four turnovers during the Buckeyes 20-5 first-half run. Davenport scored seven points during the spurt, while Hoskins and freshman forward Tamarah Riley added four each.
“It’s not just Jessica Davenport,” Stone said. “Her number pops off the play here. They are very, very solid throughout.”
Ohio State’s superior athleticism and skill was clear throughout this game. The Buckeyes out-rebounded Wisconsin 42-27 and had more offensive rebounds (21) than the Badgers had defensive (16). That lead to 18 second-chance points.
“I thought to start the game we did some real nice things defensively but didn’t get the rebounding and they got second-chance points,” Stone said.
Ohio State also scored 26 points off 22 Wisconsin turnovers. At times the Badgers struggled to even complete a pass without the Buckeyes getting a hand on it, as OSU consistently jumped into passing lanes, making life miserable for Wisconsin offensively. OSU junior guard Kim Wilburn (7) and Matter (5) accounted for 12 of the Buckeyes 15 steals.
“Just playing the passing lanes,” Wilburn said. “I think if you play it right and you practice right you are going to get those steals.”
Ohio State led 45-29 at halftime, but Wisconsin opened the second half with a 7-0 run to close the lead to nine on one of Anderson’s four triples.
“For the first time all year we came out in the second half and jumped on them right away,” UW senior guard Stephanie Rich said.
UW senior forward Ebba Gebisa followed a Davenport layup with one of her own to keep the Badgers within nine at 47-38, but the Buckeyes responded with a 6-0 run and never looked back, leading by as many as 24 in the second half.
Gebisa started Thursday in place of junior forward Jordan Wilson. Gebisa played 22 minutes, contributing eight points and six rebounds, while Wilson had four points and three rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench.
“We got great energy out of Ebba Gebisa tonight,” Stone said.
It was Gebisa’s fifth start of the season but her first since the opening four games of the season.
“She has maintained an unbelievable positive attitude and [is] a great team builder,” Stone said. “Our basketball team wants attitude and effort. She’s had tremendous practices and we inserted her and it was a great move. Defensively, she was great on [Michelle] Munoz to start the game, she gave us some rebounding.”
Junior forward Kjersten Bakke left Thursday’s game with 4:49 left to play in the first half with a sore left knee. She will be re-evaluated Friday.
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