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Wisconsin women’s basketball: turnovers kill UW in loss to Rutgers

The Badgers turned it over 27 times on Friday and lost to the Scarlet Knights by five, 70-65.

@BadgerWBB; UW Athletics Communications

Turnovers were once again the main story for the Wisconsin Badgers women’s basketball team on Friday afternoon. The Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-0 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) forced the Badgers (1-2, 0-2) to cough the ball up 27 times as UW fell 70-65.

All game, the Knights’ press defense and quick hands defensively caused Wisconsin fits. Rutgers ended up with 22 steals and scored 27 points off turnovers.

Wisconsin did get off to a good start, as the Badgers held a 15-13 lead after the first quarter. Junior forward Imani Lewis was hot early, getting six points in the first as she ended with her second double-double of the year with 12 points and 10 boards.

In that first quarter, UW held Rutgers to only 17 percent shooting, but couldn’t build any momentum because of the turnovers. Despite the struggles with holding onto the ball, Wisconsin held a 27-26 lead at halftime.

But in the second half, the turnovers and Rutgers’ star senior guard Arella Guirantes — who sported eye-catching neon-green braids — proved too much for Wisconsin. Guirantes, voted a Big Ten preseason player of the year by coaches, scored 16 points as she attacked the basket for RU despite being held to 3-for-14 from the field.

In the third quarter with UW down only 42-40, Guirantes scored an and-one opportunity after some Rutgers turnovers and hit free throws on the next possession to put the Scarlet Knights up 47-40, which became insurmountable for Wisconsin.

Turnovers were still the story, but outside of that, Wisconsin showed more signs of improvement. The Badgers shot 45.8 percent from the field, hit 4-of-12 three and outrebounded Rutgers 40-33.

Head coach Jonathan Tsipis said that while the points off turnovers and Rutgers’ dominance there was a huge factor, he was looking towards the positives and how the team continues to show those signs of improvement.

“You can put all the statistics and everything aside, I’m looking at the growth component and making comparisons of not only where we were at this point last year but where we were against similar opponents,” Tsipis said.

Star guard Sydeny Hilliard had her third straight game with over 20 points, finishing with 22 points and shooting 77.8 percent from the field (a walking bucket, as Drew said earlier). Senior guard Estella Moschkau had 13 points and hit some timely threes.

But Wisconsin will have to clean up the turnovers going forward in the season. “They’re very scrappy on defense. Always in the passing lanes, always looking to pick your pocket,” Hilliard said.

They’ll have the chance to work on ball handling against Valparaiso next Sunday, Dec. 20.