Madison, Wis. — Like a heavyweight fight, the Western Kentucky University basketball team kept taking blows and coming back, but in the end Wisconsin brought a close to the 2006-07 Lady Topper season with a 79-72 win in the semifinals of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament Wednesday night at the Kohl Center.
WKU — who advanced to semis of the WNIT in two straight seasons — finished the year 23-9. Wisconsin (23-12) will advance to the tournament championship game against either Wyoming or Kansas State on Saturday afternoon.
“I'm as proud of this team as I've ever been for the way they represented themselves both tonight and through this entire WNIT,” said Lady Topper head coach Mary Taylor Cowles. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t the outcome we hoped for, I’m so happy with the way we have played of late and the momentum we carry over into next season.”
The Lady Toppers shot just 37.5 percent in the first half, but after falling behind 8-4 after a Jolene Anderson jumper, WKU held the Badgers scoreless for nearly eight minutes as it used a 10-0 run to pull out to a 14-8 lead on a Charlotte Marshall layup. The Lady Toppers led by four after a Crystal Kelly jumper at the 9:03 mark made it 18-14, but Wisconsin used an 8-0 run of its own to pull out to a four-point lead with six minutes remaining before halftime.
WKU was never able to get over the hump the rest of the period, falling down by as much as six points on three occasions — the last coming when a Jenese Banks layup with 12 ticks left stretched the UW lead to 32-26. But a Tifany Zaragoza three as time expired gave the Lady Toppers a little momentum going onto the locker room as they cut the deficit to 32-29 at intermission.
The Lady Toppers found themselves down seven in the opening minutes of the second half, but WKU was able to use a 7-0 run — getting five from Brianne Brown. It was a Brown three that put WKU in front for the first time since midway through the first half at 46-43 with 13:50 to play.
Wisconsin came right back to score eight straight and regain a five-point lead, then stretched the lead out to seven when an Anderson three made it 58-51 with 9:34 remaining. After trading baskets, WKU got back-to-back threes from Brown and Cammie Campbell to pull within one at 62-61 with 7:18 remaining.
WKU was again never able to get over the top the rest of the way as Wisconsin held on and was able to stretch the advantage out to seven points at the final buzzer.
The Lady Toppers placed three players in double figures, led by Kelly who finished with a game-high 28 points and moved into second place on the WKU career scoring list as she heads into her senior season. Brown added a career-high 15 points of the bench — all in the second half — and was perfect from the field before fouling out with six minutes remaining. Dominique Duck also added 10 points. Anderson paced Wisconsin with 26 points, while Banks added 23 to lead the Badgers.