Dominant Second Half Helps Milwaukee Claim Victory In Opener
Nov. 9, 2012
CHICAGO, Ill. - Junior Angela Rodriguez scored 18 points to lead three players in double-figures and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women's basketball team used a big second half to claim an 82-58 victory over Chicago State University Friday night at the Jones Convocation Center.
The Panthers (1-0) started the second half on a 16-to-1 run against the Cougars (0-1) and cruised from there, building their advantage to as many as 26 points over the final 20 minutes to get the season-opening win.
The victory came in Kyle Rechlicz's first game as Milwaukee's head coach.
"It was very exciting," Rechlicz said. "I thought our girls came out focused and prepared and ready to take on the challenge from the start."
All 12 players that suited up saw action on the court, with 10 of them finding their way into the scoring column. In addition to Rodriguez's 18, senior Sami Tucker had 11 points and six rebounds and junior Emily Decorah was also in double-figures with 10 points, while adding seven rebounds.
"Pace is important to us," Rechlicz said. "We want to push the ball, which means a lot of people have to be ready. It is physically exhausting to do that for 40 minutes. I think it's an exciting game to watch and I think it's an exciting game to play. But a lot of people have to contribute if that is going to happen. Game in and game out, someone is going to step up - tonight it was Angela."
UWM shot 43.1 percent for the game and 53.6 percent in the second half, forcing 19 CSU turnovers while holding the opponent to 38.2 percent shooting from the floor.
Sophomore Janna Swopshire chipped in with eight points and four rebounds. Freshman Avyanna Young had a solid debut with seven points and a team-high nine rebounds. Jackie Jones led the Cougars with 12 points.
Up just five at the half, the Panthers quickly built that advantage to 10 with the first five points of period. They led 46-36 and went back ahead 10 at 47-37 on a Young free throw at the 14:42 mark.
"We went in the locker room at half and the girls were so into the halftime talk," Rechlicz said. "They were more involved than any team I have ever been with in a halftime locker room. And I think that really set the tone for the second half. That was our goal, jump on them in the second half in the beginning."
The defense dug in, holding Chicago State without a field goal for nearly nine minutes, pushing the lead to 57-37 on a layup by Swopshire at the 11:30 mark before CSU snapped its dry spell with a field goal at the 11:02 mark.
The Cougars missed their first 13 shots of the second half, with the UWM lead back to 20 at 64-44 with 7:58 to play on a Tucker jumper and were never really threatened the rest of the way.
Milwaukee closed out an entertaining first half on an 11-to-4 run to take a 41-36 lead into the locker room. Down, 32-30, freshman Jordyn Swan tied the game on a jumper with 5:39 to play and Rodriguez gave UWM the lead it would never relinquish on a three on its next possession.
Rodriguez made two more free throws and Young had a basket and two free throws, with her final charity toss with 40 seconds left closing out the scoring in a half that featured a quick pace both ways, with 13 lead changes and seven tied.
The Cougars started red-hot from the floor, making their first six shots - not missing until the 13:54 mark - in starting 9-for-11 from the field. Solid defense kept Milwaukee close, forcing 13 turnovers in the first 20 minutes and outrebounding its opponent by a 23-to-15 edge, including a dominant 16-to-3 advantage on the offensive glass.
The win was the first in a season opener since 2009-10 and Rechlicz also became the first UWM head coach to claim a victory in her debut since Nancy Schley in 1977-78.
"It felt great," Rechlicz said. "I am just so thankful for my staff and my team and the effort that they are giving on a daily basis."
The Panthers will finish out a busy weekend Sunday at Wisconsin, with a tip off set for 6 p.m. It will mark a return trip for Rechlicz, who played and coached for the Badgers.