first_imgRAY PFEIFFER/Herald photoThe Wisconsin women’s basketball team took a break from the rigorous Big Ten schedule Monday to host Eastern Illinois — a break that was much needed.The Badgers headed into the contest with a five-game losing streak and a 1-6 conference record, but got back on track with a 75-48 victory over the Panthers.The win was more than welcome for a struggling team trying to get through the stretch run of the season.”Tonight’s game was just what the doctor ordered … and hopefully this is the shot in the arm that we needed at the right time,” head coach Lisa Stone said. “For us, our basketball team needs to be filled with some confidence, and indeed we found some. Our growing pains continue, but this is a great feeling tonight and I’m very proud of our team for hanging in there.”Wisconsin took all the “sparks” out of the game right at tip-off — Megan Sparks, that is.Sparks, Eastern Illinois’ leading scorer at 16.9 points per game, was limited to nine points on 3-of-12 shooting.”Sparks is a great player, but we did a great job on her,” Stone said. “We had a lot of different guards guarding her, and once we made the adjustment as to how we were going to defend that, I thought we did a nice job of making shots difficult for all of their perimeter players.”Sophomore guard Jolene Anderson was guarding Sparks for the majority of the game and credited the superb defensive job to the coaching staff’s scouting report.”I studied the scouting report,” said Anderson, who had 23 points in the contest. “I tried to keep the ball out of her hands and be in the right spot at the right time.”But stopping Sparks wasn’t the only key to the game.Wisconsin out-rebounded Eastern Illinois 47-33 and doubled the Panthers’ offensive rebounds, 24-12.The Badger bench stepped up with sophomore Danielle Ward recording 19 points, seven rebounds and a career-high five steals, as well as freshman Christine Spencer notching 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting and 2-for-2 from 3-point range.”Coming off the bench, I really tried to bring a lot of energy to the game,” Spencer said.And the bench was looking more lively than usual with Stone and the players enjoying themselves in victory as opposed to having their heads down, as was the case during most of the five-game losing streak.”To have the bench like that, it helps us in the game as well,” Anderson said. “They’re into the game, so it helps us out on the court not to let fatigue get to us knowing that the rest of the team and coaching staff is behind us.””It just helps to have that support there,” Ward added. “I think that’s one of the most important things — to have the team, the coaches and yourself believing in you.”Free-throw shooting was also crucial as the Badgers made it to the free-throw line 27 times as opposed to only 12 free-throw attempts for Eastern Illinois — an issue Panther head coach Brady Sallee attributed mostly to Wisconsin’s size advantage.”I came out of intermission wanting to go take two of their 6-foot-4 kids and put one of my jerseys on them,” Sallee said. “I think that would’ve made maybe the bigger difference.”While size was undoubtedly an issue for Eastern Illinois, it didn’t help to shoot 1-for-14 from 3-point range for a percentage that even the UW men’s basketball team bettered in Saturday’s loss to North Dakota State.”I think they did a good job preparing for us, knowing that we shot the three, and I think they guarded it pretty well,” Sallee said.Gibson steps up: Freshman forward/center Caitlin Gibson grabbed a career-high nine rebounds — one more and she also would have recorded her first-ever double-double.Gibson actually checked in during the final minutes of the second half seeking the rebound, but Spencer “stole” it from her.”I’m her roommate, so something’s going to happen tonight,” Gibson joked.last_img