March 22, 2000
MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Apparently, eight really is enough.
Playing with only eight players due to suspensions of seven others, Wisconsin surprised Big Ten rival Michigan State 77-45 in a quarterfinal of the Women's National Invitation Tournament Wednesday night.
The Badgers (19-12) got a season-high 28 points and 16 rebounds from LaTonya Sims. Tamara Moore added 13 points and seven rebounds for the Badgers, while Kelley Paulus and Kyle Black chipped in 10 points each.
"I think my team was a very motivated team tonight," said coach Jane Albright. "I think they were all the things that a coach dreams about having a team be. They played with a lot of heart, they executed their offense, they hit their outside jumpers, they hit the boards hard."
Wisconsin shot 48.3 percent from the field and, despite employing a three-guard lineup, outrebounded the bigger Spartans, 45-27. Michigan State hit just 37.7 percent of its shots against a variety of Wisconsin defenses.
Wisconsin dressed just eight people for the game after Albright handed down one-game suspensions to seven players Tuesday for violating an unspecified team rule. Athletics officials refused comment on news reports that the violation involved drinking.
None of that seemed to matter, however, as Wisconsin, which tied with the Spartans for fifth place in the Big Ten this season, coasted into the WNIT semifinals. UW advanced to a semifinal Saturday in Madison against Colorado State (23-9), which beat Long Beach State 65-63.
The disciplinary action only applied to Wednesday night's game, so the seven players can return for the rest of tournament play.
Arkansas (17-14), which beat Wisconsin in last year's WNIT final, will be host to Florida (20-12) in the other semifinal Saturday.
The loss ended Karen Langeland's run of 24 years as head coach at Michigan
State (19-12). Langeland, who announced she would retire at the end of this
season in January, refused to meet with the media after the game, but did issue
"I certainly didn't expect the season to end like this," Langeland said. "I give Wisconsin all the credit, because they were an inspired basketball team and they did what they needed to do to win this contest."
Michigan State rushed to a 6-0 lead less than two minutes into the game, but it was all down hill from there for the Spartans.
The Badgers regrouped from their slow start, using a 25-8 run that was capped by Sims' three-point play with 6:16 left to lead 25-14.
"This is very gratifying," said Paulus, a senior captain. "I'm just really happy to say that we pulled together."
Wisconsin then pushed its advantage to 41-22 at halftime. At that point, Sims already had 18 points and seven rebounds, while Michigan State had committed 14 turnovers.
"I think it was mostly emotion," Sims said of her big night. "I was kind of disappointed that people were not even expecting us to come close to this team."
Despite the lack of depth, Wisconsin never seemed to get tired in the second half, and the Spartans never cut their deficit to less than 19 points after intermission.
The Badgers scored 23 points off MSU's 21 turnovers and outscored the Spartans 42-20 in the paint.