For a succinct description of what happened at Williams Arena Wednesday night, consider two numbers: 54 and 37.7.
There are other numbers that tell the tale of the Gophers women’s basketball team’s 72-62 loss to Wisconsin — their first loss to the Badgers in 14 tries dating to 2012 — but let’s stick to those two.
As in, Wisconsin ended its four-game Big Ten losing streak by scoring a rather amazing 54 points in the paint. And by holding the Gophers to 37.7% shooting, including a 3-for-17 third-quarter showing that turned a small Gophers halftime lead into an eight-point deficit entering the fourth.
Too big, it turned out, for the Gophers to erase.
“They averaged 31,’’ Gophers coach Lindsay Whalen said of the Badgers’ scoring in the paint — they eschew the three almost totally; they made just two. “Our goal was 27. They got 54. So, obviously, that’s tough.’’
Leading the way for Wisconsin (10-9, 2-6 Big Ten) was Imani Lewis, an athletic forward who matched her career-high with 23 points and set a career-high with 16 rebounds. She scored 15 of those points in the second half. Abby Laszewski had 12 points, seven rebounds and five of the Badgers’ six blocks.
The Gophers (12-7, 2-6) were led by Jasmine Brunson and Gadiva Hubbard, who scored 12 points each. Jasmine Powell had 11, Sara Scalia 10. But Hubbard and Powell went scoreless in the second half.
The Gophers bounced back from an ice-cold first quarter to take a 37-34 halftime lead.
But the third quarter proved disastrous. The Gophers were held scoreless for the final 5 minutes and 18 seconds of the quarter, which ended with the Badgers up eight.
Minnesota never recovered.
The third quarter was kind of emblematic of the game. Brunson and Masha Adashchyk were the only Gophers to hit a shot in the quarter. Minnesota had two shots blocked, turned the ball over four times — all in the final five minutes — and were 1-for-5 on three-pointers.
“They did a good job of running me off the line, making me create off the bounce and finish in the paint,’’ Hubbard said. “[Laszewski] was coming over and blocking shots.’’
It was an effective plan on a night when even mid-range jumpers were difficult for the Gophers.
“They had just enough length for the mid-range as well,’’ Whalen said. “Give them credit. A lot of those shots, we normally knock down.’’
The Gophers pulled within five on Taiye Bello’s putback with 5:19 left to play. But, making their final five shots down the stretch, the Badgers never let the Gophers get any closer.
And now the Gophers have to regroup, quickly, after falling to 0-4 at home in conference play.
“We have to shake this game off,’’ Hubbard said. “We cannot dwell on this game. We have to get it out of our heads and turn the page.’’