After a strenuous and well-played first half of the season, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team (15-2-1, 12-1-1) will enjoy a stretch of more than three weeks rest. Last weekend’s series against the University of Minnesota-Duluth was the Badgers’ last series of 2005. Wisconsin will next play against Wayne State on Jan. 6.The Badgers go into the winter break with much to be happy about. The team played a great series against the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, who were ranked No. 1 in the country prior to the series against the Badgers. Wisconsin and Duluth now share the top spot in the conference with 25 points.Wisconsin now holds the best record in the WCHA — due in large part to how dominant its offense has been for most of the season. The Badgers have scored the most goals in the WCHA with 77 and also have the most potent powerplay.Individually, junior forward Sara Bauer leads the conference in scoring with 34 points, and also recorded her fourth career hat trick earlier this season against Bemidji State.The defense and goaltending have also been spectacular. Junior defender Bobbi-Jo Slusar leads the conference in defensive scoring with 23 points, while goaltenders Meghan Horras and Christine Dufour have been lights out this season. They have the top two records in the conference and are among the best in save percentage and goals against average.Now the Badgers get an opportunity to get some rest, relax and concentrate on things other than hockey.”This is a chance for the players to rest up a little bit,” head coach Mark Johnson said. “They get to concentrate on their schoolwork and finals before they go home to enjoy the holidays with their families and not have to worry about hockey.”However, Johnson recognized there would be some difficulty in getting back into the swing of things when the second half of the season starts.”It will be transition,” Johnson said. “But it always is a transition when the second half [of the season] starts. It will be a little difficult to get back into rhythm.”After their three-week break, the Badgers will travel to Detroit, Mich., to take on the Wayne State Warriors in a non-conference series. The Warriors hold a record of 6-9-3 and are averaging just over two goals per game.Wayne State is led on offense by the freshman trio of Melissa Boal, Sam Poyton and Lindsay DiPietro. The three have combined for 62 points and have scored 30 of the team’s 38 goals.However, the Warriors have allowed 47 goals on the season, resulting in many close games. Fourteen of their 18 games played have been decided by two goals or less. The Warriors are anchored on defense by goaltender Valery Turcotte, who has a mediocre save percentage of .890.The Badgers will then travel to Grand Forks, N.D., to take on the Fighting Sioux. The Sioux sit at the very bottom of the conference with a record of 3-13-2. They average less than two goals per game and give up more than 3.5 scores per game.The Badgers swept the Fighting Sioux already this season when the two teams played in October. The Badgers destroyed the Sioux 8-0 on Oct. 28 while limiting the Sioux to just eight shots on goal. Wisconsin ended up out-shooting North Dakota 53-8.The series against North Dakota will be the last away series the Badgers have in their current road trip that started in early November.
JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoCHICAGO — There are a number of reasons why the UW men’s basketball lost the Big Ten tournament title Sunday, but the main one is simple: For the first time this season, the No. 3 Badgers were unable to obtain a single lead.Playing from behind all game, Wisconsin (29-5) could not muster any sort of comeback run in its 66-49 loss to No. 1 Ohio State (30-3).”We were trying to play from behind, so it was kind of hard,” Alando Tucker, UW senior forward and Big Ten Player of the Year, said. “We were taking a lot of jump shots for the most part because that’s what was available, that’s what was open at the time.”It’s tough playing a team like that from behind.”In the two previous Big Ten tournament games this past weekend, Tucker posted 21 points against both Michigan State and Illinois. Against Ohio State on Sunday, Tucker struggled to find his shot, scoring 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting.However, Tucker did heat up toward the end of the first half.After Buckeyes freshman guard Mike Conley Jr. knocked down a 3-pointer to give Ohio State a 21-11 lead with 4:08 remaining, Tucker found the range. He scored seven of his points in the final 4 minutes before halftime to help the Badgers pull within six.While he played well during that stretch, Tucker, an all-tournament selection, struggled getting to the basket throughout due to 7-foot freshman Greg Oden’s imposing presence in the middle of Ohio State’s 2-3 zone defense. “Oden moves pretty well for a big guy, so it’s not like he just waits in the paint for people to come,” UW head coach Bo Ryan said. “But you notice how tough it was getting the easy ones.”Oden was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, but the Badgers relatively held him in check Sunday — at least compared to the Buckeyes’ first two tournament games. In the quarterfinal game with Michigan, Oden posted numbers of 22 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. Versus Purdue, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year recorded 17 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks. Against Wisconsin, Oden was held to 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.UW junior center Greg Stiemsma came off the bench and did a good job on Oden defensively.”Stiemsma [is] a great defender,” said Oden, who also mentioned that Wisconsin has defended him the best this season. “[He] knows how to body you and how to hide it from the refs, and that’s the main part.”Nevertheless, Oden still made his presence known.”I tried to be physical with him, tried to play him hard and aggressive, but it wasn’t enough,” Stiemsma said. “But even if we would’ve stopped him, they have so many other weapons that they can go to.”One of the Buckeyes’ other weapons was another freshman and all-tournament team member — Conley, who posted 18 points, six rebounds and eight assists.The Buckeyes’ one-two punch, who also played together at Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, proved to be just too much for the Badgers.”The quickness of Conley with the ball and Oden being such a presence inside, there’s two pretty big factors of why things turned out the way they did,” Ryan said.In the second half, Wisconsin was able to cut the lead to as little as four behind the hot shooting hand of senior guard Kammron Taylor, who scored all 15 of his points after halftime. But after Wisconsin and Ohio State exchanged back-and-forth buckets, OSU junior guard Jamar Butler provided the dagger in the heart with just less than seven minutes remaining in the game.After Taylor deflected a pass into the backcourt, Butler snatched up the loose ball and drained a deep 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down. The bucket extended the lead to 10 points and prompted a 13-4 Ohio State run to close out the game. “As a team, we just didn’t get it done,” UW sophomore forward Joe Krabbenhoft said. “We’re better than what we showed everybody today, but it’ll show — we’ll show everybody again how good we can be.”News and notes: Wisconsin’s Taylor and Tucker, as well as Purdue’s Carl Landry, joined Oden and Conley on the all-tournament team . … Ryan gave no timetable for Brian Butch’s return from his right elbow injury. … Wisconsin is now 1-16 all-time against No. 1-ranked teams.