MADISON, Wis.—This was not the way forward Lello Gebisa, center Emily Ashbaugh and guard Abby Simmons wanted to go out. For the three graduating seniors on Senior Day, a 72-56 loss to Ohio State was not the way to celebrate. Two of the three, Ashbaugh and Gebisa, made significant contributions. Ashbaugh put up 10 points and five rebounds and Gebisa had 12 points and eight rebounds.
"[Gebisa and Ashbaugh] are going to be two tough people to replace," head coach Lisa Stone said. "I was blessed to be able to coach them for a year and they're a foundation of what's to come."
The Badgers have spent much of the year rebuilding the program, resulting in a season full of stutters, spurts and growing pains. Wisconsin (10-16 overall, 4-12 Big Ten) was on a two-game winning streak, including the team's first road win at Illinois Feb. 26. For a team that, prior to the 59-53 win over the Illini, had not won consecutive games since back-to-back wins over Illinois and the University of Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne Jan. 13 and 16, this was a team that had reasons to feel confident.
"There was a lot of confidence coming into this game and there was a lot of confidence leaving this game," Ashbaugh said. "We, as a group, we have found how we wanted to play in the last two games and we know that this, today was not how we wanted to play."
Ohio State (19-8, 11-5) and its stifling defense took advantage of a careless Wisconsin team that made six turnovers in the first five minutes alone, creating a game of catch-up that, for the Badgers, lasted all night.
"Their defensive pressure was always in your face," Josephson said. "They're a great defensive team and as you can see, the number of turnovers we did have, they were really pressuring us guards out there and it was really hard for us to get it inside."
Wisconsin's glaring faults, coupled with sharp shooting from the Buckeyes allowed them to go on a 15-0 run before Gebisa finally made a lay-up five minutes, 21 seconds into the first half. Things did not improve from there. Passes either sailed out of bounds or into Buckeye hands and Wisconsin had 18 total turnovers. Key shots, ranging from 3-pointers to 2-point jumpers to lay-ups bounced off the rim or missed the hoop entirely and the Badgers knocked down 20 of 52 shots.
Ohio State, meanwhile, had none of these problems. The Buckeyes made 30 of 67 shots and only had five turnovers. They did struggle from the 3-point range, making 2 of 14 attempts but their inside game prevailed, despite playing against some of the biggest forwards they had seen all year.
"I think we took care of the ball, and I've said it before—I think it's a very difficult team to score on," Ohio State coach Jim Foster said. "Our bigs are not used to that size playing against them. I'm sure for [Wisconsin], they're not used to having that much size playing against them, so I think defensively it presented challenges."
For Ohio State, senior center LaToya Turner and freshman guard Brandie Hoskins responded to the scoring challenge well, putting up 14 and 15 points respectively. Freshman center Jessica Davenport also had a solid night, collecting 12 points, five rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
"Their inside game, Davenport and Turner are pretty special and when you have a 3-point shooter, (junior guard) Caity Matter, who draws a lot of attention, it opens things up inside," Stone said.
With the loss and the official end to the Big Ten regular season, the Badgers will face Indiana in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament March 4 in Indianapolis, in a matchup of the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds. The team will be without sophomore forward Kjersten Bakke, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during practice last week and is out for the season.
In addition, the team may miss junior guard Stephanie Rich, who injured her right hand with five minutes left in Sunday's game. Prior to her injury, she had 11 points, three rebounds, three assists and five turnovers.
Score by half
Ohio State - (Field goals-Free throws-Points) - Brandie Hoskins (6-2-15), LaToya Turner (6-2-14), Caity Matter (4-4-12), Jessica Davenport (6-0-12), Kim Wilburn (4-0-8), Candace Dark (1-2-5), Beth Howe (2-0-4), Stephanie Blanton (1-0-2). Totals: 30-10-72.
Wisconsin - (Field goals-Free throws-Points) - Ashley Josephson (5-0-15), Lello Gebisa (4-4-12), Stephanie Rich (4-0-11), Emily Ashbaugh (4-2-10), Jordan Wilson (2-2-6), Ebba Gebisa (1-0-2). Totals: 20-8-56.
Three point goals - Ohio State 2 (Dark, Hoskins), Wisconsin 8 (Josephson 5, Rich 3).
Rebounds - Ohio State 34 (Wilburn 6), Wisconsin 34 (L. Gebisa 8).
Assists - Ohio State 14 (Wilburn 8), Wisconsin 15 (Rich, Josephson, Wilson 3) Turnovers - Ohio State 5 (Team 2), Wisconsin 18 (Rich 5).
Blocks - Ohio State 4 (Davenport 3), Wisconsin 4 (Ashbaugh 2) Steals - Ohio State 15 (Wilburn 5), Wisconsin 3 (L. Gebisa, Rich, Wilson) Fouls - Ohio State 12, Wisconsin 11.
Points - in the paint: Ohio State 40, Wisconsin 22 - Off turnovers: Ohio State 26, Wisconsin 2 - Fast break: Ohio State 14, Wisconsin 2 - Bench: Ohio State 11, Wisconsin 8 - Second chance: Ohio State 11, Wisconsin 12. Ties - 0. Lead changes - 0.