Video and quotes: Unranked Wisconsin stuns No. 7 Penn State in down-to-the-wire game
Wisconsin (10-11, 2-6) defeated No. 7 Penn State (17-2, 7-1) Thursday night 63-61 in the last seconds of the game on a putback basket from senior guard Tiera Stephen after Cassie Rochel missed a pull up jumper with seven seconds on the clock. Penn State called a timeout but when play resumed PSU’s Alex Bentley missed a layup and the Badgers prevailed.
“All I can say is ‘wow’. That was awesome, I’m really proud of this team,” said Wisconsin head coach Bobbie Kelsey . “Again, I’ve been saying it a lot lately, we just persevered and we got through adversity. These kids really believe they can win these games and we believe they can do it, and when they finally see it for themselves, we can hold them to that standard now.”
The win snapped the 11-game win streak of the Lady Lions and gave the Big Ten leader is first conference loss of the season.
“It’s huge for our team,” said Bobbie Kelsey . “It’s huge for our confidence, it’s huge for our program. To beat a ranked team, a very highly ranked team, it shows our kids that – a lot of people say that ‘You don’t have anything.’ – no, we have plenty.”
Junior Morgan Paige lead Wisconsin with a career-high 33 points. Sophomore Jacki Gulczynski scored 16. Stephen finished the game with 11 rebounds to go along with five points.
The Badgers’ win over Penn State is their first over a ranked team since beating No. 20 Michigan State, 48-45, on Jan. 14, 2010. It was the highest-ranked team that UW has beaten since taking down No. 6 Baylor, 59-58, in the championship game of the Paradise Jam on November 29, 2008. The first time Wisconsin played Penn State this season, the Badgers dropped an 84-40 decision in University Park, Pa. It was the largest margin of loss by UW this season.
Wisconsin Head Coach Bobbie Kelsey
“We can’t say we can’t do anything, we can. I think they’ve always believed we’ve just been knocking on the door on a lot of these games and we can’t break through. If we were going to break through, this one was a nice one to break through on. Penn State is a very, very good team, they’re big, they’re talented, they can shoot. We just made a couple more shots, because we sure didn’t make our free throws.”
On what this win means to the program:
“I believe in them, I know people don’t mean to be offensive to say that, but it says a lot about them, and their perseverance and their hard work. We’re on them, but again they could either fold, or buck up and do it. That’s what they do, because I’m on them pretty good. I know what they can do and I believe in what they can do, and the assistants believe it. We all believe it. If you believe you can win these types of games, they’re tough; you’ve got to play excellent basketball, because that team is going to be in the NCAA tournament for sure. And we’re trying to strive for that, so we’re proud of them.”
On answering Penn State’s runs:
“We don’t always answer with a run, and that’s been kind of our problem. But tonight we did. I can’t say it enough, it says a lot about these kids and their understanding of if you continue to work, you continue to press, you will break through. You can’t give up, you can’t quit. You can’t whine and complain, I do enough of that with the refs. Again, I had to stop that because it wasn’t helping our team. We can’t focus on the external things; we have to focus on what we can do and what we can control.
“Penn State is a very talented team, they will be in the tournament, and it just says a lot about us to not be afraid to play someone of their caliber, and not just say, ‘well they’re going to beat us’. They have Nikki Greene and (Mia) Nickson and (Ariel) Edwards; they’re big. And they use that to their advantage.
“You have to do the little things, we took care of the ball, we hit some big shots. A lot of it is hitting shots, you have to hit some shots. You can take them but not make them, but we made them tonight. That just helped us to keep that confidence that we’re right in the game.”
On holding Nikki Greene to one point:
“We tried to double her, she’s not a player you can play one-on-one. We don’t have a lot of post depth, so we have to help Cassie (Rochel) and she still had four fouls because Nikki Greene is just hard to guard. She gets in there deep and she makes her post move but sometimes when you don’t know where the double is coming from, then you’re looking around instead of making your move. We tied her up a couple times, we got a hand on it. That takes people out of their rhythm, so to speak. We’re not big enough and deep enough to guard her one-on-one. A lot of people we’re not, that’s why we have to double somebody and take a chance.”
On having confidence in Tiera Stephen:
“I always have confidence in Tiera, I just don’t like when she picks it up without a plan. Other than that, Tiera has come a long way. Last year, she was not doing any of this. She made up her mind that she was going to come in this season and regardless of what everybody was saying, she was going to play basketball like she knew she could. I wish she was doing this last year, when we had Jade (Davis), they could have been a one-two punch, but you don’t get everything you want. She stepped up this year and we saw Dakota (Whyte) step up a little bit in this big game. Pretty much, Dakota saved us really. Morgan (Paige) scored, but Morgan scores. Jacki (Gulczynski) does what she does. But if you don’t have that other little guard to give her a break, Tiera’s up there trying to play (Alex) Bentley, trying to bring the ball down, trying to call the offense. It’s a lot. So we did give Dakota credit for this, sometimes it’s not in the stats, it’s just a player making the difference and helping out in intangible ways, and she did that.”
On what she was thinking the last few moments of the game:
“Put it in, just put it in. Because two of them did run to Cassie and tried to put a hand up, and that’s what they’re supposed to do, you don’t want to leave a wide-open shot. Tiera was right there, she’s an excellent rebounder. She used the backboard on that play and it went in. That was a timely rebound, like I said, probably the biggest rebound of her career. We were very nervous because (Alex Bentley) is very fast, very quick and she was going to that basket. I just said, don’t foul. If anything you go into overtime. Tiera did a nice job, and that ball was probably half way in the rim and came out. She won’t miss many of those, and then the time ran out because I think (Nikki) Greene got the rebound and tip it back in, but the time ran out. It’s a huge win for our program.“
Penn State head coach Coquese Washington
On what the difference was between Wisconsin’s 44-point loss to Penn State and this game:
“I always think teams are more comfortable and play better at home–shoot better at home. They shot the ball certainly a lot better than they did at our place. They played with a lot of energy, and the crowd helps that – just being comfortable at home. I thought that they came out with certainly a lot of focus, a lot of intensity, a lot of energy and made shots.
On whether she felt good about where her team was after a 13-0 run to take the lead into halftime:
“I never felt comfortable, even when we went on the run, because I felt like Wisconsin was in a rhythm offensively all night, and we never really got in a rhythm on either end of the floor. Even when we took the lead in the first half, I still didn’t feel comfortable with the flow of the game.”
On Morgan Paige’s play tonight:
“She had a great will. She made some big shots, and she’s done that before. She’s playing with a lot of confidence this year, and she’s carrying her team.”
On how her team can bounce back from the loss:
“We have a lot of things we’ve got to fix, but I think it starts with just being consistent. We’ve got to have a better defensive effort and be consistent in the things that we’re doing defensively.”