8:00 PM ET, March 28, 2007
MADISON, Wis. -- The message was simple for Wisconsin juniors Jolene Anderson and Janese Banks."They're the 1-2 punch," coach Lisa Stone said. "I just said, 'Just take over. Just make sure we win this game."' Anderson responded with 26 points and Banks had 23, as the Badgers defeated Western Kentucky 79-72 Wednesday night in semifinals of the Women's National Invitation Tournament. Wisconsin (23-12) advances to the WNIT championship game Saturday at Wyoming, which defeated Kansas State 89-79 in triple overtime in the other semifinal. The Badgers were WNIT runners-up in 1999 and won the tournament in 2000. They are now 13-1 all-time in the WNIT. "I'm not going to call [the season] a full success until we win on Saturday," said Banks, whose team has set a program record for victories in a season. "But it's been fun. I can say that." Anderson, the Big Ten Conference's leading scorer, got 18 of her points in the second half. The Badgers made all 20 of their free throws, including eight by Banks and six by Anderson. Anderson, who played all 40 minutes, took a hard spill on her hip in the final seconds but refused to leave the court even with the game in hand. "She's phenomenal," Western Kentucky coach Mary Taylor Cowes said. "The thing about her that I think is so impressive is she can score in a variety of ways. She can shoot from the outside, she can drive to the basket, she can get to the line." Wisconsin led for almost the entire second half, falling behind only once with 13:50 left. Then Anderson hit one of her four 3-pointers, Banks sank a pair of free throws and Anderson stole the ball and fed Banks for a 3-pointer to put the Badgers in front for good at 51-46. "They look for each other in times of need," Stone said. "We look for them all the time." Crystal Kelly scored 28 points to lead three players in double figures for Western Kentucky (23-9), which took advantage of 10 Wisconsin turnovers to lead by as many as six points in the first half. "Crystal Kelly is the real deal. The girl is a great player," Stone said of the nation's second-leading scorer. "They run their offense to get her the basketball, and they get it to her." Nearly 10 minutes into the game, the Badgers had eight turnovers to go with their eight points, but they settled down and rattled off a 12-2 run to take a 26-22 lead. Wisconsin led 32-29 at the break. Brianne Brown added 15 points for the Lady Hilltoppers on 5-of-5 shooting from the field, including three 3-pointers, but the sophomore guard fouled out with 6:51 to go while battling for a rebound. "That last call was kind of rough for me, because I felt like I had possession of the ball," Brown said. "I did have a hot hand. It was bad timing all the way around." Forward Danielle Ward had 12 points, nine rebounds and four steals for Wisconsin, and freshman Mariah Dunham added 10 points. The Badgers have only left the Kohl Center once in three trips to the WNIT, losing at Arkansas in the 1999 title game. They played in front of 4,942 fans Wednesday night but found out the title game would be on the road. "We would love to stay home," Stone said. "We'd like to be here, because I think we'd double this attendance and win it here. But we'll accept the challenge."
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