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Wisconsin women’s basketball: UW sets program record, mounts 22-point comeback to beat Purdue

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The Badgers only scored two points in the first quarter but never quit and came all the way back to earn their fourth conference win.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 13 Womens - Purdue at Wisconsin Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

MADISON — Wisconsin Badgers women’s hoops (7-17 overall, 4-10 Big Ten) hosted Purdue (14-11 overall, 5-9 Big Ten) at the Kohl Center on Sunday afternoon. The Badgers celebrated Senior Day, honoring multiple practice players, managers and graduate transfer Katie Nelson.

UW had won three of their last four Sunday afternoon contests, and hoped to make it four of five on Super Bowl Sunday.

The Badgers came out of the locker room ice cold, missing their first 13 shots and being held scoreless for the first 9:55 of the game. Scoring only two points, this was Wisconsin’s lowest point total in a single quarter this season. It goes without saying that this was by far their worst quarter of the year.

Julie Pospisilova gave the Badgers their first points of the game with 0:05 remaining in the quarter. Despite a somewhat slow start of their own, six different Boilermakers scored in the first. Purdue implemented a full court press midway through the first quarter that caused all kinds of issues for UW. The Badgers struggled to get into their offense, turning the ball over seven times in the quarter leading to nine points for Purdue. After the first, UW trailed 17-2.

Moseley looked for any sort of spark-plug in the second quarter, giving both Natalie Leuzinger and Tara Stauffacher a large chunk of minutes, but the Badgers were unable to find their rhythm on either end of the floor. Purdue guard Abbey Ellis led the charge for the Boilermakers in the first half, scoring 11 points.

Wisconsin shot an abysmal 15.4% (4-of-26) from the field in the first half, including 1-of-9 from beyond the arc. After struggling to take care of the ball in the first quarter, UW only turned the ball over one time in the second. The Badgers trailed 35-15 at half.

Brooke Schramek said that during halftime, the team came together and said, “That is not the team we are, that is not the team that Coach came to coach.”

I am not sure exactly what Moseley said to her team in the locker room, but it clearly woke them up. Krystyna Ellew hit two threes before Pospisilova added one of her own, cutting Purdue’s lead down to 11. Suddenly, the Badgers were playing inspired basketball, something they had yet to do all afternoon. Purdue guard Cassidy Hardin silenced the Kohl Center crowd with a three of her own, pushing Purdue’s lead back to 14 halfway through the third.

Purdue extended their lead back to as many as 16, but the Badgers didn’t go away. Brooke Schramek connected on an and-one to bring UW within single digits with two minutes to play in the third. UW played phenomenal defense in the third, holding the Boilermakers to eight points on 3-of-17 shooting which included a 4:43 scoring drought.

UW knew if they wanted a shot to win this game, they needed to make a big run in the third, and that they did. They cut Purdue’s lead in half and trailed 43-33 at the conclusion of the third.

Bucky didn't slow down after that. Purdue’s offensive struggles continued and Wisconsin capitalized, scoring the first six points of the fourth to cut Purdue’s once 22 point lead down to only four. The Badgers were firing on all cylinders and held all of the momentum. With four minutes the play, the Badgers cut it to a one possession game, and only trailed by three. A Pospisilova layup cut the lead to one and the Badgers were inches away from completing the largest comeback win in the history of the program.

The Badgers continued to lock down on the defensive end, following her layup to bring the game within one, Pospisilova hit a three and for the first time all day, the Badgers led.

Purdue responded with a three of their own. UW said, “Whatever you can do, I can do better.” Schramek found Ellew all alone in the corner and the freshman hit her biggest shot of the season, giving UW a two point lead with 1:13 to play.

Postgame, Ellew said she told Schramek that she’d “never given her a better kick-out pass than in that moment.”

When it mattered most, the Badgers refused to let up on the defensive end. Purdue guard Madison Layden missed a contested floater and Katie Nelson nailed two huge free throws to extend Wisconsin’s lead to four. Purdue wasn’t going to go away that easily though. Ava Learn scored a tough layup to cut the Badger lead to two, and despite Nelson being hit from practically every single angle, the referees ruled a held-ball on the ensuing possession with the arrow favoring Purdue.

One last stop, and the Badgers would walk out of the Kohl Center with a win. The Badger defense held strong as they had all half long and came away with the largest comeback win in the program’s history, 54-52.

“That was literally the definition of a tale of two halves... I told my team, what we did in the first half was unbelievable, and then what we did in the second half was UNBELIEVABLE. To know that that word can have double meaning in this situation, just incredibly proud of their effort and their belief in that we are capable of doing so much more than we showed (in the first half)” Moseley said.

The team that took the floor following halftime was an entirely different group than the one we saw in the first. What a win for this team. Absolutely incredible.

When asked to describe the win in one word, Moseley said, “Magical. It was magical because to know that these kids believe in something that was bigger than themselves and they trust in what we’re doing. They didn’t come here to play for me but they’re playing their hearts out for me. That’s what is really magical.”

Next up, the Badgers host Michigan State on Wednesday night. If you’re in the area, I suggest getting to the game. This team is starting to turn a corner and you don’t want to miss it.