UW sophomore guard Jolene Anderson hit a layup to pull the Badgers within 75-72 with 13 seconds left. But Badger sophomore guard Janese Banks fouled out, sending Notre Dame senior guard Megan Duffy to the free-throw line, where she calmly sank two shots to clinch Notre Dame's victory at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Duffy finished with a game-high 20 points, nine of which came on free throws.
"[Duffy] displayed tremendous poise and confidence and I think everybody else fed off of that," Notre Dame associate head coach Coquese Washington said. "She wasn't rattled at all, she's played in big games before and she just had a lot of confidence and I think she exuded that confidence and everybody else picked up off of that."
UW senior guard Ashley Josephson's layup tied the game at 62-62, but Notre Dame out-scored Wisconsin 5-0 over the next five-and-a-half minutes.
Badger sophomore guard Shari' Welton scored a layup with 3:06 left to end a 5:44 scoring drought and draw UW back within 67-64. But the Irish never looked back. Duffy scored eight of Notre Dame's final 10 points, carrying the Irish, who improved to 6-0.
"In that lull, we gave up some open looks and some missed box-outs…." Wisconsin coach Lisa Stone said. "Offensively, we sputtered a little bit. We're running different people in and out and trying to get to the rim and score, trying to get the ball back inside. We were successful when the ball went inside today and we went away from that a bit in that six-minute period."
Despite the loss, Wisconsin can take away several positives from this game. The Badgers made a season-high seven 3-pointers, scored 72 points against a team that was giving up 58 per game, and forced 20 turnovers, a season worst for Notre Dame.
In her first career start, UW freshman forward Caitlin Gibson scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds. Filling in for injured forward Kjersten Bakke, Gibson played 24 minutes, after playing just 33 in the team's first six games.
Anderson led UW with 16 points.
This was the same Wisconsin team that struggled immensely in a 71-59 loss to Marquette Friday, shooting 31 percent from the field. Sunday, however, UW showed more confidence, intensity and energy. The Badgers came out fired up against the Irish.
"I would probably say that our team was embarrassed after Friday," Stone said. "Didn't shoot the ball well, didn't play very good defense, our effort was nothing like today. So it's very encouraging.
"It's our third Big East team, second ranked team in the last week (the Badgers lost to No. 17 DePaul 76-56 Nov. 27). If that's a measuring stick for us, we measured up pretty well."
Wisconsin and Notre Dame traded baskets throughout the game; the Irish's largest lead was 28-17 midway through the first half. But Wisconsin hit four of its next nine shots to whittle that lead to 30-27.
There were seven ties in the game and the Badgers held the lead twice. Banks hit a jumper with 3:57 left in the first half to tie the game; 30 seconds later, Wisconsin commanded its first lead at 39-36 after Banks hit a free throw and Gibson added a layup. Wisconsin also led 52-50 with 13:26 left in the game.
UW, though, lost the battle of the boards, 34-27, the first time the Badgers have been out-rebounded this season.
"The thing we wanted to focus on was rebounding and we out-rebounded them," Washington said.
The Badgers welcomed back Josephson, who contributed 11 points off the bench after sitting out of the Marquette game with a left hip injury.
Banks, who was wearing eye goggles after injuring her head over her left eye Friday, added 11 points, four rebounds and four turnovers in 35 minutes.
"Honestly, I had a headache out there (from the goggles) but I just tried to give it all I had," Banks said. "I just really tried to play my game and not worry about anything else."
In addition to her scoring, Notre Dame's Duffy collected six rebounds, three steals and a game-high five assists.
Irish freshman guard Lindsay Schrader finished a perfect 6 of 6 from the field, including her first 3-pointer on her first career attempt, for 13 points.
The Badgers were called for 21 personal fouls, which turned into 20 Irish points off free throws. Sophomore forward Danielle Ward fouled out for the second straight game, taking her fifth foul with 31 seconds left and sending Duffy to the line, where she made both her attempts. Ward played just 14 minutes and had six points and two rebounds.
Wisconsin entered the half down 42-39 but at that point had made 14 of 34 field goals, including 6 of 11 3-pointers.
"They really believed that they could win today," Stone said. "And that's a big difference between this year and last year. This team believed they could win and they do believe they can win every game that we play."
Crowd energizes Badgers
The announced attendance of 5,455 fans cheered wildly as Banks tied the game at 36-36 and kept cheering, particularly when the game was tied or when Wisconsin held the lead.
"This is a tough place to play," Washington said. "The fans are great, it was loud, it was a great atmosphere."
"The crowd was awesome, it really was," Stone said. "The crowd was in the game from the get-go, the turnout was fantastic and really enlightens our team."
Notable: Welton made her first career start for UW and scored three points in 15 minutes, on 1 of 6 shooting… Bakke is still day-to-day with her injury… Washington assumed head coaching duties for Notre Dame for the second consecutive game, in place of Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw, who missed the game due to illness.