With its latest post-season gem, the 'W' in WNIT could easily be confused for something else, as Wisconsin, no matter who, where or when, plays some of its best basketball in the WNIT bracket.
Getting a game-high 30 points from junior Jolene Anderson, Wisconsin erased a 14-point second-half deficit that spoiled a 24-point performance from Virginia sophomore Lyndra Littles, as the Badgers won their WNIT Quarterfinal game 84-78 over a talented Cavalier squad to advance them to the semifinals.
"Knowing that we beat a really good team today feels awesome," head coach Lisa Stone said. "My staff works their tail off, my players come in and do anything we ask of them and to see the reward is awesome."
Early in the second half, however, the Badgers' post-season magic looked to have run out.
With Virginia (19-15) leading by six at halftime, Littles came out of the locker room on fire, scoring 13 of her 24 points in the first five minutes to give Virginia a 57-43 lead. Coupled with Wisconsin (22-12) going scoreless on seven of its first 12 possessions caused the Badgers to be facing a long road back.
But, as the old saying goes, a long journey begins with a single step.
After finally curtailing Virginia's run, the Badgers slowly started to chip away. A three-pointer by Mariah Dunham spurred a mini 6-0 run to get the Badgers within four and, unlike the first half, the Badgers started to get to the free throw line.
After shooting no free throws in the first half, Wisconsin made 10 attempts from the line – making eight – over a six-minute span that brought Wisconsin back within two with just over three minutes left.
Just when Virginia looked like they were about to make another scoring run, Wisconsin turned the game on its axis.
On a driving lay-up attempt by Rae Lin D'Alie, freshman Monica Wright delivered a thunderous block that sent the ball right to guard Sharnee Zoll. Zoll raced up the court in transition, but failed to see Janese Banks firmly planted at center court. Zoll ran right over Banks, drawing an offensive foul call, which resulted in Virginia assistant Jeff House getting rung up with a technical foul.
Anderson nailed both free throw attempts and, suddenly, Wisconsin was back to even.
"It was a very untimely and uncharacteristic technical," Virginia head coach Debbie Ryan said. "If anyone gets a technical on this team, it's me. It was absolutely the turning point of the game."
After D'Alie connected on a lay-up to put Wisconsin up two, Wisconsin delivered another dagger. With the shot clock winding down, D'Alie saw the ball kick off her foot as she drove toward the basket. As luck would have it, the ball went right into the hot hands of Anderson, who nailed the three-point bucket with no time left on the shot clock to put Wisconsin up five.
"The play of the game is when Rae turned it over and Jolene hit a three with the shot clock winding down," Stone said after the game. "[That play] might have done it."
The Badgers weren't out of the woods yet. After D'Alie went one of two from the free throw line, junior Danielle Ward was called for her fifth foul with 23.8 seconds left that send Zoll to the line with a chance to tie and to earn some redemption for her offensive foul.
Zoll's bad luck continued, missing the front end of the bonus that forced Littles to commit her fifth foul on Dunham - one of Wisconsin's best free throw shooters at 78 percent.
Dunham calming sank both free throws that, with her ensuing fist pump, spelled the end for Virginia. In the second half, Wisconsin went 22-for-29 from the free throw line.
"I knew we wouldn't quit," Banks said when asked what she was thinking when Wisconsin was down 14. "Coach kept setting goals for us every media timeout and told us that this is the time that players make plays."
With her 30 points, Anderson continues to add to her single season scoring record, now standing with 667 points. It's Anderson's 27th consecutive game scoring in double figures and her sixth consecutive 20-point game.
"We were having a little bit of trouble with Anderson," Ryan said. "We were switching out onto her and I think we were a little bit fatigue because when she missed, they were always in possession for a rebound. The switching caused us to be out of position and we didn't adjust. She was the difference today."
After the game, Stone and Banks could only laugh about some of the shots Anderson was making on Sunday afternoon.
"I have no idea how some of those shots go in," Stone teased.
"When I grow up and have kids, I am going to make them shoot in a barn just like her," Banks said with a laugh that made Anderson's face match the red in her jersey.
The first half defined what a seesaw game is all about. With Virginia leading by two early, the Cavaliers went on a 13-2 run, pushing its lead to 21-8 and forcing Stone to call an early timeout. Whatever she said motivated Wisconsin, as UW responded out of the timeout with a 12-0 run to get the score back within one, forcing the Cavaliers to sit down and regroup.
Right on cue, Virginia responded, sparking a 9-0 run to regained the lead and stayed in front all the way up until Anderson made both free throws after the technical.
The 14-point comeback tied for the second largest under Stone and puts the Badgers two wins away from their second WNIT championship in seven years. Never doubting that they couldn't comeback, Wisconsin is banking on its experience, which few thought this team had.
"Everyone believed we were going to win the game," Stone said. "They are fighters, they want to win and another step towards a tremendous accomplishment."