MADISON — Michigan knows all too well that freshmen can contribute to the game plan, as the Wolverines feature seven on their team. But Wisconsin freshman Jolene Anderson showed what kind of positive impact young players can have in a Big Ten game.
Anderson led all Wisconsin scorers with 21 points and added seven rebounds and four assists. Anderson continually spurred the Badgers when they needed it the most.
“I think that their team does a great job to get her open looks,” Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said. “Her uncanny ability to dribble penetrate and her range makes it very difficult to guard her. It is uncanny for a freshman to move so well without the basketball.”
Despite being just a freshman, the 5-foot-8 guard seemed to take control of the game in its critical moments. Down the stretch, Anderson took over point guard duties and directed the Badgers offense. While she was not perfect — Anderson had nine turnovers — Wisconsin coach Lisa Stone was impressed by her maturity.
“Jolene came on fire,” Stone said. “You saw her running the point for quite a long time in the second half. I was able to get Steph Rich some rest (by having Jolene play the point).”
Anderson was always in the right place at the right time. With just over nine minutes left in the second half, Wisconsin began to take control of the game. After a missed Badger layup, it looked like Michigan might have a chance to cut Wisconsin’s lead to single digits. But Anderson came away with a sneaky offensive rebound and a layup to put the Badgers up by 12. Wisconsin reeled off a 13-3 run to go up by 20 with less than six minutes left in the game.
Michigan put its best defender — sophomore Kelly Helvey — on Anderson, but it was not enough to slow down the pesky guard. Anderson was able to get open throughout the game, and she hit her shots when she needed to. At the end of the game, when Michigan began its frantic comeback, Anderson showed a keen basketball sense as she slowed down the tempo and reset the Badger offense several times.
While Anderson has led Wisconsin all season long — she was the Big Ten’s fourth-leading scorer going into the game — she needed senior Ebba Gebisa to help seal the game for the Badgers.
Gebisa’s 10 free throws put Michigan away just as the Wolverines seemed to be starting a comeback. In the last six minutes, Gebisa hit her 10 free throw attempts and made Michigan regret putting her on the charity stripe. Those makes allowed Gebisa to notch a season-high 18 points. But Gebisa also affected Michigan’s offensive looks.
“I really think that she used her size to change some shots for our team,” Burnett said. “Her long wingspan really changed shots.”
With the Badger duo combining for half of Wisconsin’s points, the Wolverines could not complete its valiant late rally. Michigan freshmen Krista Clement and Becky Flippin came away impressed with the performance of fellow freshman Anderson.
“She’s a great player,” Clement said. “We really keyed on her in the pregame (warm-ups), but she just did a good job.”