The University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team made history Sunday, completing the largest comeback in both team and conference history as the Badgers overcame a 22-point third quarter deficit to defeat Purdue, 54-52, at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Wisconsin (7-17, 4-10 in conference) trailed Purdue (14-11, 5-9) 17–0 in the waning moments of the first quarter before finally getting on the board with a Julie Pospisilova 16-footer for a 17-2 score at the end of the first. Wisconsin started to hit shots in the second quarter but still trailed 35-15 at the half. The Badgers would then outscore the Boilermakers 39-15 over the final 19 minutes of the game to pull off the biggest comeback ever in a Big Ten Conference game. It also bested UW’s previous best comeback of 20 points set at Michigan on Feb. 28, 2008.
The Boilermakers led 37-15 with 9:33 to play in the third quarter before Wisconsin started its comeback.
An 11-0 run, including two 3-pointers from Krystyna Ellew, cut the lead to 37-26 with 6:45 on the clock. The Badgers made it a single-digit lead at the 2:03 mark when Brooke Schramek completed an old-fashioned three-point play, making the bucket and free throw after getting fouled, for a 42-33 score.
Wisconsin kept on scoring in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to four (43-39) on a Pospisilova bucket with 7:46 to play. Purdue upped the lead to 47-39 with 6:04 remaining but a 7-0 Badger run made it 47-46 with 3:03 on the clock.
The Badgers took their first lead of the game (49-47) with 2:07 to play as Pospisilova hit a 3-pointer off a Purdue turnover. The Boilermakers followed with a triple of their own to lead 50-49 with 1:39 remaining. Ellew hit a shot from behind the arc with 1:13 left to give Wisconsin a 52-50 lead. Katie Nelson added two free throws with 31 seconds to play to put UW up 54-50. The Boilermakers hit a field goal in the paint with 16 seconds left and had a last-second opportunity to tie or win the game after a jump-ball call but their attempt came up short.
After shooting just 15.4% (4-26) from the field in the first half, Wisconsin shot 58.3% (14-24) in the second half to finish the game at 36% (18-50). The Boilermakers were just the opposite of UW, shooting 43.3% (13-30) for the first half but just 17.2% (5-29) in the second half for 30.5% (18-59) for the game.
Head coach Marisa Moseley said she never doubted the team.
“I honestly don’t remember everything I said (at halftime). I wasn’t very happy,” she said in a postgame interview. “What I did tell them is that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were a much better team than we just showed and that they had 20 more minutes to go out there and play Wisconsin women’s basketball the way that we know how to play and that I refused to watch whatever that was that we just did for another 20 minutes.”
She said what led to the big deficit was mostly self-inflicted.
“I don’t honestly think the first half was anything that Purdue did defensively,” she said. “We just missed wide open layups. We got things that we wanted, we just didn’t execute. In the second half we actually executed both on offense and then defensively, we really picked up our intensity.”
Four Badgers scored in double figures for just the third game this season. Pospisilova led all scorers with 15 points while Schramek added 13 points. Ellew (11) and Nelson (10) also scored in double figures. Purdue was led by Abbey Ellis with 11 points as it had two players in double digits.
Moseley gave credit to Nelson, a senior who played for Moseley at Boston University and transferred when Moseley took the head coaching job with Wisconsin this year.
“She’s been the heart and soul for us. She kind of willed us to win there,” Moseley said.
Purdue edged the Badgers from the free-throw line, shooting 84.6% (11-13) while Wisconsin was 70.6% (12-17). Nelson was a perfect 6-6 from the charity stripe .
The Boilermakers also finished with a 38-35 advantage in rebounds. Schramek just missed her first career double-double with a career-high nine rebounds.
Nelson dished off a game-high eight assists as Wisconsin had 14 assists and 14 turnovers. Purdue scored 14 points off UW giveaways and outscored the Badgers 16-2 on fast-break points.
Moseley said she’d rather not get behind far enough to have to set comeback records, but still, the resilient performance gives the program something to build on.
“We want recruits who are watching to understand that if you come here, we’re gonna compete for 40 minutes,” she said. “There’s an excitement, and you could see our team has the chemistry and they play for one another. They stayed together. And if I’m a kid watching that at home, or a fan, I respect that and I want to be a part of that.”
The Badgers next play Wednesday when they host Michigan State at 6:30 pm.