Rose-colored glasses for UW
Stone could barely contain her excitement after the Badgers turned up the defense to rally from a 14-point deficit in the second half for a 48-45 win over the 20th-ranked Spartans on Thursday night.
Merchant, on the other hand, described the loss as her team’s lowest point.
“What a great game against a very, very good opponent,” Stone said. “Defense is what we’ve been hanging our hat on. And trust is what put us in position to win.”
Reserve Taylor Wurtz had 16 points, including the game-winning layup, for the Badgers (14-4, 4-3 Big Ten), who allowed just one basket and four points over the final 12:15.
Part of that turnaround was what Wisconsin did. Equally important was what Michigan State didn’t.
“We’re a team that isn’t responding,” Merchant said of the Spartans (11-6, 2-4). “No one wants to put the team on her back and lead. If they do, no one is listening or following. We’re going to make major changes.”
The game had a major change after Michigan State’s 12-2 run produced a 39-25 lead. Suddenly, the Badgers began fighting for every loose ball, while the Spartans became spectators.
Teah Gant scored all 10 of her points in the second half and made a game-saving deflection, while Alyssa Karel also finished with 10 points after a 2-for-10 start from the field.
“We really focused in as a team,” Gant said. “In the first 20 minutes, we were playing too much one-on-one.”
The one bright spot for the Spartans was 6-foot-9 center Allyssa DeHaan, who had 12 points, including two 3-pointers, and four blocked shots. But she was invisible down the stretch.
“I’m devastated,” DeHaan said after the Spartans’ fourth straight loss and second in a row at home. “We have to fix something. We’re a bunch of talkers. But we don’t have that one solid rock.”
DeHaan was the only Michigan State player with more than six points.
“There are always ebbs and flows, but four points in 12 minutes is embarrassing,” Merchant said. “It was a situation where nobody wanted the ball and nobody wanted to stop the bleeding.”
The Badgers weren’t much better but did hit their shots when they needed to, including Wurtz’s layup on a pass from Ashley Thomas with 52 seconds left.
“Time was running out, and I saw an open lane,” said Wurtz, coming off a 25-point game against Michigan.
The much-taller Spartans had a 45-37 edge on the boards but couldn’t produce more points than rebounds. They also had 16 turnovers.
“It was the same players and the same offense we were running in the first half,” Merchant said. “We didn’t get much production off the bench, and our starters were negligent. One game they have the fire going. Then, they look like they’ve never played before.”