"Minnesota's a great basketball team," Wisconsin coach Lisa Stone said. "They were in the Final Four [a year ago] for a reason. They are I think as good as last year, maybe better because they get contributions from a lot of people."
Minnesota senior center Janel McCarville was the headline act, leading all players with 15 points, 17 rebounds, six assists and four blocked shots. The Gophers backcourt, however, was the driving force behind the team's dominating performance.
Point guard Shannon Schonrock set the tone with her aggressive play at each end of the court, running a Minnesota offense that made 60 percent of its shots. Defensively, she shut down UW senior guard Stephanie Rich, who entered Thursday's game having scored a combined 42 points in two previous Big Ten games.
Rich was 0 for 7 shooting; her only two points of the evening came on a pair of free throws with 2:27 left in the game.
"Schonrock's in your shorts the whole time," Rich said. "They just rotate and play great defense as a team. The pressure that they put on you getting through the screen and once you have the ball in your hands is remarkable."
Gopher junior guard Shannon Bolden put the clamps on Wisconsin's leading scorer, freshman guard Jolene Anderson, who entered the game averaging 18.2 points per contest. Anderson shot just 5 of 20 Thursday and scored 11 points. By comparison, Bolden tallied 11 points on 4 of 7 from the field.
"I just tried to make her put the ball on the floor and take shots that she didn't want to take," Bolden said. "I also wanted to be aggressive offensively because she was defending me and I wanted to make her have to work on both ends."
As a team Wisconsin (6-6, 1-2) set a Kohl Center low with its 27 percent shooting. The Badgers, who had averaged 74.2 points per game prior to Thursday, also established new season lows for field goals (17), 3-pointers (1), assists (5) and rebounds (28).
"That's our identity as a team," Minnesota coach Pam Borton said. "We know you've got to be able to shut teams down and play defense if you want to be playing in the postseason."
The Gophers had four players in double figures, with Schonrock (11) and sophomore forward Jamie Broback (10) joining McCarville and Bolden.
Junior forward Jordan Wilson paced Wisconsin with 14 points.
Trailing 40-27 at halftime, the Badgers scored just 12 points in the first 17 minutes, 33 seconds of the second half on 4 of 28 shooting before Rich's free throws trimmed Minnesota's edge to 69-41.
"I give a lot of credit to their defense," Stone said. "There was somebody contesting every shot that we took."
Schonrock opened the game's scoring with a 3-pointer from the wing, one of seven triples the Gophers would make on 17 attempts.
Minnesota's lead was just 7-6 at 16:05 in the first half, but the Gophers made 8 of 11 shots in a 20-6 run, pulling ahead 27-12 at 10:25.
Schonrock's second triple gave Minnesota a 15-8 edge and her assists to McCarville and guard Kelly Roysland on consecutive possessions capped the run.
McCarville took over from there, scoring Minnesota's next nine points. Her 3-point play at 6:21 extended the margin to 34-19, matching the Gophers largest lead of the first half.
UW junior forward Annie Nelson hit two free throws to make it 34-24 at 4:52 in the first half but McCarville capped her team scoring run with a floater in the lane. Her reverse layup with 24 seconds lefts in the opening session gave her 13 of Minnesota's last 17 points before halftime.
Wisconsin drew no closer than 11 points and trailed by as many as 30 in the second half, despite 24 Minnesota turnovers.
McCarville, who scored all 15 of her points in the first half, became just the 10th player in Big Ten history with at least 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds when she grabbed her ninth rebound of the game with 17:01 left to play. The Stevens Point, Wis., native, now has 1,523 career points and 1,008 career rebounds.
"A lot of fans came from my hometown to see me here. Just wanted to give them a show and something to remember me by," McCarville said. "I think I kind of went out and did that."
Wisconsin has a brief turnaround before its next game, an 11 a.m. tip-off with Penn State Saturday at the Kohl Center.
"We need to take whatever we can from this game, forget about it and move on," Stone said.