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Spartans steal victory from Badgers

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Wisconsin 23 Michigan State 76, Wisconsin 66
Kohl Center • Madison, Wis. • Attendance: 3,848

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  Michigan State
39 37 76
31 35 66
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 Statistical Leaders
 • Michala Johnson: 15 Pts, 5 Reb, 2 Ast, 6-7 FG
 • Taylor Wurtz: 15 Pts, 6 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 7-15 FG
 • Jacki Gulczynski: 11 Pts, 7 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Blk 5-5 FG
 Stats at a Glance
 FG Percentage .452 .509
 3-Point FG Percentage .294 .300
 FT Percentage .789 .750
 Offensive Rebounds 16 8
 Defensive Rebounds 18 17
 Total Rebounds 34 25
 Turnovers 8 14
 Assists 12 12
 Steals 11 4
 Blocks 1 3
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Feb. 20, 2014

MADISON, Wis. -- Despite shooting a season-high 50.9 percent from the field, the Wisconsin women’s basketball team couldn’t stop the balanced offense of No. 23 Michigan State, falling to the Spartans 76-66 on Thursday night in the Kohl Center. The loss was the fifth straight for the Badgers, their longest losing streak of the season.

“The good thing about these kids is that they don’t give up, they don’t hang their heads, they keep playing hard,” said UW head coach Bobbie Kelsey. “I’m just sad for them because we’re trying everything and we’re just not getting results. But it’s not for lack of effort or passion or want. Just for whatever reason we just can’t get that one little push back. We just have to keep trying.”

 Fast Facts
• UW shoots a season-high 50.9 percent from the field
• Three Badgers score double-digits
• UW returns to the Kohl Center for their final home game of the season on March 2

After falling behind by as many as 10 points in the first half and trailing the Spartans 39-31 at the break, Wisconsin (10-16, 3-11 Big Ten) looked strong to start the second period.

Morgan Paige opened up the second half with a layup and Taylor Wurtz hit back-to-back layups, but Michigan State (18-8, 10-3) countered UW every time to maintain an eight-point 45-37 lead with 18:03 remaining.

Two straight jumpers from Michala Johnson cut the Spartans lead to four points (45-41) with 17:06 left to play, but the Spartans responded again to prevent the Badgers from cutting into the deficit.

UW held State’s lead to single digits for the entire second half but could never capitalize on opportunities to take the momentum away from the Spartans.

Two free throws from Johnson cut the Spartans’ lead to four (70-66) with 1:53 to play, but a timely layup by Michigan State forward Becca Mills stopped the Badgers’ rally.

Wisconsin was forced to foul and four consecutive free throws from the Spartan forward Aerial Powers and missed plays on the offensive end for UW sealed the win for Michigan State.

“There’s a reason why they’re ranked in the country. They’re not just some fly-by-night team just walking in here,” said Kelsey. “They have history, that program’s been to a Final Four. They’re going to attract kids that want to try to do that. It’s been a while, but they’ve still gone.”

UW shot a season-high 50.9 percent (27-of-53) from the field and held the Spartans to 45.2 percent field goal shooting (28-of-62). Wisconsin made a season-low three 3-pointers while MSU made five with both teams shooting near 30 percent. The Spartans went to the line 19 times, making 15 for 78.9 percent while the Badgers were just 9-of-12 for 75 percent.

Turnovers were a game changer as the Badgers gave the ball away 14 times, assisted by 11 Michigan State steals. The Spartans scored 21 points off of turnovers and eight points off fast-break chances.

Michigan State dominated Wisconsin on the boards, securing 34 rebounds – including 16 offensive rebounds – to the Badgers season-low 25 total rebounds, eight offensive.

”You come to our practice, we’re doing a box out drill every day so we have to do it in the game. It can’t be we practice it and then we don’t execute it in the game,” said Kelsey. “It’s gotten better, but again, it didn’t help us because they did score off of some of those second-chance points. I think they got most of their points off of our turnovers. So we need to look at how we’re turning the ball over.”

Three Badgers scored in double figures, led by Johnson and Wurtz with 15 points each. Johnson converted 6-of-7 from the field and grabbed five rebounds. Wurtz pulled down six rebounds and dished out three assists.

Jacki Gulczynski shot a perfect 5-for-5 from the field for 11 points and led UW with seven rebounds. Paige contributed nine points, while Nicole Bauman added eight.

The Spartans finished with six players scoring in double-digits. Four of their five starters contributed double-figure totals. Mills led Michigan State with 15 points, while guard Tori Jankoska added 14 points, seven assists and five steals. Powers tallied 13 points and eight rebounds and Annalise Pickrel added 12 points.

Jasmine Hines and Agee Branndais rounded out Michigan State’s double-figure scorers, coming off the bench to chip in 10 points each.

“We hung with them there, but they have some big, strong posts in there,” said Kelsey. “Those kids are huge. (Jasmine) Hines is huge and (Becca) Mills is a big girl as well. I thought for the most part we tried to make adjustments as we were in the game. We tried to put Malayna (Johnson) in there for a little more size, but we hung tough. It just wasn’t enough.”

Wisconsin battles No. 21 Purdue when it travels to West Lafayette, Ind., on Sunday. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. live on the Big Ten Network. UW returns to the Kohl Center for their final home game of the season on March 2 for a 1 p.m. game against Northwestern.

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