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Kelly Karlis hits 3-pointer in final second to lift Badgers women’s basketball over Nebraska

January 28, 2019

Redemption was both swift and sweet for Kelly Karlis.

One moment Karlis is feeling responsible for another painful loss for the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team. And the next, she comes through with the shot of her life to give the Badgers a thrilling 70-69 victory over Nebraska on Sunday before a boisterous crowd of 6,074 at the Kohl Center.

The low point for Karlis came when she committed a turnover and then a foul to give Nebraska the ball with the score tied at 67-67 and just 16.5 seconds remaining. The Cornhuskers took advantage of that mistake by taking the lead on a driving layup by junior Nicea Eliely with just seven-tenths of a second on the clock.

“It was really tough mentally for me but my teammates and my coaches had my back,” Karlis said. “They gave me the confidence to keep playing to the last second and that’s what we did.”

Karlis, a 6-foot-2 redshirt senior, made that last second a memorable one when she took the inbounds pass from Niya Beverley in the left corner and fired up a shot over Eliely that swished through the net as the horn sounded to give the Badgers (11-10, 2-7) their biggest win of the season.

Taking advantage of the women’s basketball rule that allows the ball to be moved to the front court, UW coach Jonathan Tsipis set up a final play with at least three options for Beverley’s inbound pass.

One option was to try to hit freshman Imani Lewis cutting to the basket, which is what Tsipis figured Nebraska would be anticipating. Another option was passing to senior Marsha Howard somewhere near the free throw line after she set a pick for Karlis. And the other was to pass to Karlis as she reached the corner.

“A lot of options out of it,” Tsipis said. “And Niya with the decision to try to put the ball in play where the best option could be.”

That choice was Karlis, who knew she had no time to waste before getting the shot off.

“I honestly didn’t know if we were going to have enough time to get the ball off, so I was kind of nervous,” said Karlis, who had missed her only other 3-point attempt in the game. “But as soon as I got the ball I just threw it up with confidence and thank God it went in.”

While Karlis’ shot from in front of the Badgers bench made the highlight reel and set off a wild celebration, it was just the last of a series of big plays down the stretch as the Badgers overcame a 10-point deficit in the last four minutes.

The Huskers (9-11, 4-5) led by as many as 14 points early in the third quarter, only to see the Badgers come back to get within 51-49 at the end of the quarter.

But Nebraska, sparked by 3-pointers by Taylor Kissinger and former Barneveld standout Hannah Whitish, stretched the lead to 67-57 on two free throws by Maddie Simon with 4:18 left.

The Badgers responded with baskets by Lewis and Howard, two free throws by Karlis and a running jumper by Beverley to cut it to 67-65 with 1:39 to go.

Howard, who led the Badgers with 18 points, then made a big defensive play, blocking a layup attempt by Eliely. Beverley was fouled driving to the basket on the next possession and made both free throws to tie the game with 1:01 left. The Badgers, miserable at the foul line most of the season, made eight of nine attempts in the fourth quarter.

The teams then traded turnovers, with Karlis making a steal on one end but giving it back on the other, to set up the final dramatics.

“It’s a really tough way for our team to lose and we’re obviously very disappointed with the last four minutes of the ballgame,” Nebraska coach Amy Williams said. “I thought we kind of lost our aggressiveness and had some crazy turnovers and gave up a few too many offensive rebounds and some penetration down the stretch to Beverley. We just didn’t handle business in the last four minutes.”

After being outrebounded 23-15 in the first half by the larger Cornhuskers, the Badgers responded to a halftime challenge by Tsipis and ended up with a 34-33 edge on the boards.

Howard and Lewis each had seven rebounds to lead UW.

“When you are down (eight) rebounding and come back and outrebound somebody, the credit goes to the kids for bearing down and making sure they stay on the glass,” Tsipis said. “I’m just proud because our kids are working and working and working and to see the end result with a Big Ten win, I couldn’t be more proud.”

NEBRASKA

min fg-a ft-a rb pf a to pts

Marshon 23 0-4 1-2 3 2 0 1 1

Cain 30 7-12 0-0 7 1 1 3 14

Whitish 33 4-12 0-0 1 2 7 3 12

Eliely 27 6-9 0-0 5 2 0 3 12

Kissngr 21 5-7 2-2 2 3 1 2 15

Haiby 17 0-5 0-0 6 1 4 3 0

Veerbeek 8 0-0 0-0 1 5 0 2 0

Simon 17 1-5 4-4 3 1 1 0 6

Brown 19 4-7 1-1 4 1 1 1 9

Totals 27-61 8-9 33 18 15 18 69

WISCONSIN

min fg-a ft-a rb pf a to pts

Karlis 29 2-3 3-4 1 3 2 3 8

Howard 33 7-13 4-6 7 3 2 6 18

Lewis 31 7-13 3-4 7 1 0 2 17

Van Lee. 30 1-7 2-2 4 2 1 2 5

Beverly 36 4-8 2-4 4 0 5 1 10

Laszwski 14 4-6 0-0 4 0 0 2 8

Gilreath 5 0-2 0-0 1 0 0 0 0

Luehring 13 1-3 0-0 1 1 2 2 2

Hale 4 1-1 0-0 1 0 0 1 2

Totals 27-56 14-20 34 10 12 18 70

Team totals include rebounds and turnovers

Nebraska 14 25 12 18 — 00

Wisconsin 9 19 22 21 — 00

3-pointers — N 7-23 (Whitish 4-10, Kissinger 3-5, Haiby 0-1, Eliely 0-1, Marshon 0-2, Simon 0-2, Brown 0-2), W 2-10 (Karlis 1-2, Van Leeuwen 1-4, Beverley 0-1, Luehring 0-1, Gilreath 0-2). Blocks — N 2 (Marshon 1, Cain), W 4 (Howard 3, Karlis 1). Steals — N 10 (Eliely 5, Marshon 2, Cain 1, Kissinger 1, Brown 1), W 13 (Karlis 4, Beverley 4, Van Leeuwen 3, Lewis 1, Laszewski 1). Field goal percentage — N .443, W .482. Free throw percentage — N .889, W .700. Att. — 6,074.

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