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You only get one chance to make a good first impression, so Julie Pospisilova and Sydney Hilliard were determined to make the most of that opportunity.

The centerpieces of the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team’s freshman class demonstrated what has those around the program so excited about them as they helped lead the Badgers to a 75-62 opening night victory Tuesday over North Florida at the Kohl Center.

Pospisilova, a 6-foot guard from Prague, Czech Republic, scored 14 points to share team scoring honors with senior Kendra Van Leeuwen.

And Hilliard, a 5-11 guard from Monroe, put up 11 points in just 13 minutes off the bench as she plays her way back after missing a couple weeks of practice with a knee injury.

“It was their first official game as Badgers,” coach Jonathan Tsipis said, “and they’re not afraid. That’s what makes them special. The moment doesn’t get too big. They love playing basketball and they’re able to create shots for themselves as well as others.”

Hilliard, who just returned to practice full-time on Monday, said she had some pregame jitters in advance of her UW debut.

“I was really nervous this morning,” she said. “But once I stepped on the court I kind of just relaxed. I told myself I’ve been in a position like this before. I knew our team was ready and that I was ready, so I think that showed on the court today.”

Pospisilova, on the other hand, had no such issues to overcome.

“I wasn’t nervous at all because I have experience playing much tougher games before,” said Pospisilova, who has played on the Czech Republic National Team since 2014, competing in five European Championships. “So I’m kind of used to playing these games.”

That comfort level was apparent right from the start as she hit her first shot and scored seven of the Badgers’ first 11 points.

The Badgers looked as if they might be on the way to a runaway as they opened up a 29-16 lead midway through the second quarter. But the Ospreys, relying on great free throw shooting (11 of 12) and some long-range bombs (5 of 12 from 3-point range), managed to cut the UW lead to 38-30 by halftime. With two minutes left in the half, North Florida had made 5 of 10 from beyond the arc and just 1 of 20 from 2-point range.

“You have to give a lot of credit to North Florida,” Tsipis said. “You saw a North Florida team that has some explosive scorers.”

The Ospreys were led by redshirt sophomore Tiffany Tolbert with 20 points and senior Janesha Green with 16. Redshirt junior Jazz Bond, a preseason All-Atlantic Sun selection, was held to just seven points and didn’t hit her first basket until making a 3-pointer with 7:30 left in the fourth quarter.

“I thought we did a good job on Jazz Bond,” Tsipis said.

North Florida likewise did a good job containing UW’s top offensive threat, sophomore Imani Lewis, collapsing around her much of the night and holding her to seven points.

The Ospreys closed to within four points on four occasions in the second half, but each time the Badgers responded with key baskets.

Bond made two free throws with 4:42 remaining to cut the UW lead to 63-59, but Hilliard answered by grabbing a rebound and going the length of the court for a driving layup to start the Badgers on a 12-3 closing run to put the game away.

“Everybody wants you to have 30-point blowouts,” Tsipis said. “But I thought it showed good resolve with our group that when they got to single digits, we executed, we got some stops and we got to the free throw line and took good care of the basketball.”


NORTH FLORIDA

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

Bond 25 1-6 4-4 9 3 0 0 7

Eremeeva 21 0-7 0-0 7 3 0 0 0

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Tolbert 30 7-16 3-4 0 2 3 0 20

Jackson 23 4-12 0-0 7 3 0 1 10

Green 37 3-15 9-12 5 4 1 1 16

Gordon 28 2-10 0-0 4 4 0 0 0

Moore 22 1-6 0-0 1 3 2 1 3

Scott 13 0-0 0-0 2 1 0 1 0

Totals 18-72 16-20 38 23 6 4 62

WISCONSIN

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

Laszewski 28 2-5 0-1 10 2 3 1 4

Lewis 24 3-9 1-2 6 4 1 4 7

Gilreath 26 3-9 4-6 4 4 0 0 13

Pospisilova 29 6-10 0-0 3 3 4 2 14

Van Leeuwen 32 4-7 5-12 8 1 4 4 14

Stauffacher 22 2-7 2-2 5 1 0 0 7

Stapleton 4 0-2 0-0 1 0 0 1 0

Luehring 16 2-4 0-0 5 1 2 0 5

Bragg 6 0-0 0-0 0 2 0 0 0

Hilliard 13 5-9 1-1 5 1 2 0 11

Totals 27-62 13-24 52 19 16 12 75

Team totals include rebounds and turnovers

North Florida 14 16 17 16 — 62

Wisconsin 20 18 19 18 — 75

3-pointers — NF 10-26 (Tolbert 3-4, Jackson 2-5, Gordon 2-9, Bond 1-2, Green 1-3, Moore 1-3), W 8-21 (Gilreath 3-7, Pospisilova 2-4, Luehring 1-2, Van Leeuwen 1-3, Stauffacher 1-4, Hilliard 0-1). Blocks — NF 3 (Bond 2, Moore 1), W 7 (Laszewski 3, Van Leeuwen 1, Pospisilova 1, Stapleton 1, Luehring 1). Steals — NF 6 (Jackson 2, Green 1, Tolbert 1, Eremeeva 1, Gordon 1), W 3 (Van Leeuwen 1, Gilreath 1, Pospisilova 1). Field goal percentage — NF .250, W .435. Free throw percentage — NF .750, W .542. Att. — 3,032.

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