The University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team got off to a good start and had an even better finish on Sunday.

The Badgers jumped out to a big early lead against Northwestern, only to give it up midway through the fourth quarter. But then they collected themselves and finished on a 14-1 run to gain their first Big Ten Conference victory, 58-45 before 5,110 fans at the Kohl Center.

Junior Marsha Howard scored 21 points, including six consecutive in that decisive run, to lead the Badgers (8-13, 1-7 Big Ten).

“When they went up, we were poised, kept it together,” Howard said. “Collectively (we) came together, talked about it, regrouped, got a few stops and went up.”

Just 10 days earlier, the Badgers found themselves in a similar position, holding a one-point lead over the Wildcats in the middle of the fourth quarter, only to see Northwestern pull away with a 15-4 run.

This time it was the Badgers who were able to put together the decisive finishing run.

After trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half, Northwestern (9-12, 2-5) battled back and took a 45-44 lead on an offensive rebound basket by Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah to cap an 8-0 run with 4:37 left in the game.

But the Badgers quickly regained the lead on a reverse layup by sophomore Courtney Fredrickson and Howard, playing with four fouls, hit three consecutive field goals to open up a lead.

“We came down and Courtney attacked and finished,” UW coach Jonathan Tsipis said. “We got a stop and Marsha came down and attacked and got one right in the paint, a short little jumper.

“We talked about finishing. When you look at the fourth quarter and to be able to shoot 60 percent and get to the line 10 times and be able to hold Northwestern scoreless throughout that stretch … I’m just proud and we can build off this.”

One of the biggest plays in that stretch was made by senior Cayla McMorris, who pursued an offensive rebound and drew the fifth foul on Kunaiyi-Akpanah, the second-leading rebounder in the Big Ten. After getting 18 rebounds in the first meeting with UW, Kunaiyi-Akpanah finished with 11 to go along with her 12 points.

“She’s just a flurry of activity,” Tsipis said of the Wildcats’ junior forward from Abuja, Nigeria. “A couple times Marsha did a really good job and had her on her back. She’s just really athletic. She’s like Dennis Rodman. She has a passion to go get the basketball.”

The Wildcats finished with a 38-31 advantage on the boards, but the Badgers were able to contain Northwestern guards Lindsey Pulliam and Jordan Hamilton, holding them to a combined seven points on 1 of 20 shooting from the field. Hamilton, a freshman, had her season-high of 22 points in that first game against UW.

“I think Niya Beverley played with a little bit of a chip on her shoulder defensively and did a much better job of keeping her in front,” Tsipis said. “I thought we chased her off the 3-point line.”

The Badgers dominated the first half, racing out to a 22-7 lead early in the second quarter.

The Wildcats chipped away and narrowed the deficit to 31-22 at halftime and managed to pull even with an 11-2 run to start the second half. Sophomore Abi Scheid scored nine of her team-high 17 points during that stretch for Northwestern.

But McMorris, who went to the bench early in the period after getting hit in the eye, returned to action and scored seven consecutive points to spark a 9-2 run that gave the Badgers a 44-37 lead.

“When I came back, seeing that the score was tied I kind of felt like being one of the upperclassmen I had to kind of get the team back and regroup,” McMorris said. “It was on my mind to attack.”

NORTHWESTERN

min fg-a ft-a rb pf a to pts

Hopkins 22 1-4 0-0 4 5 2 1 2

Kun.-Akpanah 25 5-12 2-2 11 5 1 0 12

Scheid 40 7-16 1-1 3 0 1 3 17

Pulliam 36 1-13 4-4 1 4 1 1 6

J. Hamilton 37 0-7 1-2 2 3 1 5 1

Wolf 16 4-8 0-0 5 2 2 0 8

Galernik 16 0-2 0-0 1 0 0 0 0

O. Hamilton 8 0-0 0-0 2 2 0 0 0

Totals 18-62 8-9 38 21 8 10 46

WISCONSIN

min fg-a ft-a rb pf a to pts

Howard 30 10-16 1-2 9 4 1 4 21

Fredrickson 33 3-8 0-0 2 3 1 2 6

Van Leeuwen 32 2-5 0-0 7 2 3 1 4

Beverley 34 2-4 0-1 3 2 3 1 5

McMorris 30 1-4 10-13 7 1 2 1 12

Gilreath 20 1-6 0-0 1 1 0 1 3

Marble 0+ 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0

Laszewski 11 2-3 1-2 0 0 1 0 5

Shaw 10 1-2 0-0 0 2 1 3 2

Totals 22-48 12-18 31 15 12 13 58

Team totals include rebounds and turnovers

Northwestern 7 15 15 9 — 46 Wisconsin 16 15 9 18 — 58 3-pointers — NW 2-10 (Scheid 2-5, Pulliam 0-1, Galernik 0-1, J. Hamilton 0-3), W 2-8 (Beverley 1-1, Gilreath 1-5, Fredrickson 0-1, McMorris 0-1). Blocks — NW 5 (Wolf 2, Kunaiyi-Akpanah 1, Scheid 1, O. Hamilton 1), W 4 (Laszewski 2, Shaw 1, Beverley 1). Steals — NW 4 (Kunaiyi-Akpanah 2, Scheid 1, J. Hamilton 1), W 4 (Howard 1, Fredrickson 1, Van Leeuwen 1, Laszewski 1). Field goal percentage — NW .290, W .458. Free throw percentage — NW .889, W .667. Att. — 5,110.

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