MADISON, Wis.—As the seconds ticked off the Wisconsin women's basketball team's latest loss, Iowa senior forward Jennie Lillis dribbled down the court all alone, heaved the ball into the air in jubilation and sprinted across the court to embrace senior guard Kristi Faulkner.
It was the picture of a comeback that will not soon be forgotten by the Hawkeyes or the Badgers.
Faulkner scored 15 of Iowa's last 29 points, including eight unanswered in the final 26.1 seconds of regulation to tie the game at 72-72. With 18.8 seconds left in overtime, Faulkner iced it, converting a 3-point play to provide Iowa's margin of victory, 87-82.
Wisconsin led for nearly all of the final 30 minutes of regulation, but Lillis almost single-handedly kept the Hawkeyes in the game, scoring a game-high 31 points, 17 in the second half. Faulkner took over down the stretch and finished with 29, 24 of which came in the second half and overtime.
The Badgers led 72-64 with 36.6 seconds left after sophomore guard Ashley Josephson buried a pair of free throws. Wisconsin miscues, though, combined with Faulkner's clutch shooting, turned one of the Badgers' best games into the most heart-wrenching of losses.
"We just served up the food and handed it to them and said, ‘here you go, eat,'" Wisconsin junior guard Stephanie Rich said. "We just gave them the game. We made some, as a team, some costly errors."
Faulkner sliced to the lane and scooped in a layup to start the rally. Jordan Wilson then committed one of many Wisconsin mental errors down the stretch, drawing an over-and-back call after making an ill-advised pass to sophomore forward Kjersten Bakke.
Faulkner drilled a 3-point shot from the left wing to make it 72-69. After an Iowa timeout, Lillis stole Bakke's inbound pass near the block, then dribbled out to the 3-point line. Instead of taking the shot, she found Faulkner in the right corner, who buried her fifth 3-pointer of the game with 7.7 seconds remaining.
"We just had to go out there and play as hard as we could," Faulkner said. "We never give up—we just knew we had to play tough defense and we just remained patient on offense."
"They came to the bench every single time and said, ‘we're going to win,'" Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said of Lillis and Faulkner. "And they truly believed it the whole time. It's senior leadership that enables you to win these types of games that are close on the road, because they're mature, they've been around, they know what they need to do."
Rich drove the length of the court at the end of regulation but her off balance shot in the lane drifted hopelessly toward an Iowa player underneath the basket.
The loss was the Badgers fifth consecutive and dropped them to 2-10 in the Big Ten and 8-14 overall. The Hawkeyes improved to 7-4 and 13-9.
While Iowa's well-earned euphoria showed in the game's final minutes, Wisconsin's exhaustion was even more evident.
Wilson and Rich played all 45 minutes while Josephson logged 41. Iowa employed a full-court press for most of the game, but in the closing minutes switched from a man-to-man press to a full-court trap and upped its intensity.
Rich, who had one of the better games of her career, did a very good job beating the man-to-man pressure throughout the game, forcing Iowa to use three different defenders on her. The trapping defense, though, caused a fatigued team fits down the stretch and Wisconsin turned it over six times in the final four minutes. There were other mistakes, such as Wilson's shot attempt with 50 seconds left in the game and 18 seconds left on the shot clock.
The Badgers were also forced to play without two post players for most of the game. Senior center Lello Gebisa came down awkwardly on her right ankle after blocking her third shot of the game with 3:54 left in the first half. She did not return, finishing with 12 points in 12 minutes of play.
In addition, Wisconsin received just 21 minutes from senior center Emily Ashbaugh before she fouled out with nine points.
The late-game meltdown clouded what had been a very strong performance for the Badgers. Just three weeks ago Wisconsin lost 66-46 at Iowa. Thursday, the Badgers controlled the action for most of the game.
Sophomore guard Lindsay Richard's 3-point shot to open the overtime gave Iowa its first lead since a 19-17 advantage midway through the first half. Wisconsin went on an 11-0 run at that point and led by eight at halftime. The Badgers led by as many as 13 and led 65-55 with five minutes to go before a Faulkner jumper and a Lillis 3-pointer closed the gap to 65-60.
Rich scored 17 points, all in the second half, and had game highs with 11 rebounds and seven assists.
She answered Richard's 3-pointer with one of her own to tie the game at 75-75 at the start of overtime. Richards, who was scoreless entering overtime, hit another 3 to make it 82-80. A Wilson layup tied it, but Jamie Cavey converted an up-and-under with 1:12 left in overtime to give the Hawkeyes the lead for good.
"It's unfortunate," Wisconsin coach Lisa Stone said. "We made some costly errors down the stretch and didn't put the game away. As I told our players, what we're doing right here is the right thing. We're in every position to come away with a ‘W.'"
Score by half
Iowa - (Field goals-Free throws-Points) - Jennie Lillis (12-4-31), Kristi Faulkner (11-2-29), Jamie Cavey (5-7-17), Lindsay Richards (2-0-6), Jenna Armstrong (0-2-2), Becca McCann (1-0-2). Totals: 31-15-87.
Wisconsin - (Field goals-Free throws-Points) - Ashley Josephson (5-4-18), Stephanie Rich (4-5-17), Jordan Wilson (6-3-15), Lello Gebisa (6-0-12), Emily Ashbaugh (4-1-9), Ebba Gebisa (1-4-6), Kjersten Bakke (1-1-3), Kandace Evans (0-2-2). Totals: 27-20-82.
Three point goals - Iowa 10 (Faulkner 5, Lillis 3, Richards 2), Wisconsin 8 (Rich 4, Josephson 4).
Rebounds - Iowa 35 (Lillis 8), Wisconsin 41 (Rich 11).
Assists - Iowa 17 (Solverson 5), Wisconsin 22 (Rich 7) Turnovers - Iowa 14 (Lillis 4, Cavey 4), Wisconsin 24 (Ashbaugh 5).
Blocks - Iowa 0, Wisconsin 9 (L. Gebisa 3) Steals - Iowa 8 (Solverson 3, Lillis 3), Wisconsin 6 (Rich 4) Fouls - Iowa 22, Wisconsin 20.
Points - in the paint: Iowa 38, Wisconsin 28 - Off turnovers: Iowa 24, Wisconsin 11 - Fast break: Iowa 0, Wisconsin 2 - Bench: Iowa 4, Wisconsin 17 - Second chance: Iowa 9, Wisconsin 10. Ties - 10. Lead changes - 12.