IOWA CITY — As the Wisconsin Badgers’ roster has shrunk, Morgan Paige’s role has grown.
And so has her game.
A former all-stater at Marion High School, Paige makes another return to Eastern Iowa on Thursday, when the Badgers face Iowa in a Big Ten women’s basketball contest.
Tipoff is 7 p.m. Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Now a junior, Paige has become the face of the program. She leads the Badgers (9-10 overall, 1-5 Big Ten) in minutes (35.5 per game) and scoring (16.5 points per contest).
“There’s been a lot of expectation for me to step up,” said the 5-foot-9 guard. “We’ve gone through a lot of adversity. Because of injuries, we’re down to nine girls.”
Primary on the Badgers’ disabled list is Taylor Wurtz, likely out for the season with a back injury.
“We’ve been through a lot of …we’ve been through a lot,” Paige said.
Paige scored 28 points — one short of a career-high — as the Badgers broke their Big-Ten oh-fer with a 68-49 rout of Ohio State on Sunday at Madison.
That win snapped a 20-game losing streak against the Buckeyes.
“We had been struggling to put two halves together, but we did it Sunday,” said Paige, who made all 11 of her free throws Sunday.
“We knew we were undersized and outnumbered, but we got the job done.”
At Marion, Paige was a first-team Class 3A all-state selection in 2009 and 2010, averaging 25 points per game as a senior, and she led the Indians to two state tournaments. She also was the setter on the volleyball team that won a state championship in the fall of 2008.
Earlier this season, Iowa coach Lisa Bluder called Paige “a good shooter, a productive shooter. She is excellent in transition, and she has taken on the burden of that team.”
Paige is 0-4 against Iowa, including 0-2 at Carver. The Hawkeyes pulled away late to beat the Badgers at Madison on Jan. 10, their 11th straight win over UW.
“It’s always fun to go back,” Paige said. “It’s a great atmosphere. The last couple times we’ve played them, we were in the game.
We know it’s going to be a battle, a grind.”
The older sister of North Carolina freshman Marcus Paige, Morgan said she sees almost all of his games on TV.
“A lot of people up here don’t make the connection between Marcus and me,” she said. “Then they see him on TV and say, ‘Oh my goodness, you look so much alike.’”