Without doubt the Wisconsin women's basketball team's strength this season has been its defense.
The Badgers have struggled to score points all season, averaging 57.9 per game while connecting on only 39 percent of their shots.
Wisconsin (6-7 overall, 1-3 Big Ten), though, has held opponents to a similarly minimal 60.5 points and 39 percent from the field.
Particularly in recent games, the Badgers defense has been buoyed by sisters Ebba and Lello Gebisa, who have proven too tall for opponents.
Junior Ebba Gebisa, a 6-foot-3 guard/forward, frequently draws opponents' top perimeter player. Quick enough to keep up with most guards, Gebisa's length has proven a formidable challenge for some of the best scorers in the Big Ten.
"Ebba Gebisa is one of the most intelligent student-athletes in the Big Ten," Wisconsin coach Lisa Stone said. "Her intelligence and her study of the scouting report allows her to be in position to contest shots. She contested very high. Ebba is a 6-3 guard; when you put your hands up she's at 6-5 or 6-6, it's difficult."
Against Ohio State Jan. 2, Ebba drew 5-9 guard Caity Matter, one the conference's top three-point shooters. Matter has drilled 43 of 105 threes this season and hit a gaudy 45 percent (106-for-235) last season. Though Ohio State won the game, 65-46, Matter was held to 2-for-8 shooting, 2-for-6 from beyond the arc, and just seven points, less than half her season average.
Nine days later, Ebba squared off with Penn State's Kelly Mazzante, a 6-0 guard who will soon become the Big Ten's all-time leading scoring in either women's or men's basketball. Mazzante notched 15 points, seven below her average, and was 4 of 19 from the floor, 2 of 10 from beyond the arc.
"She was short (with her shot) because we contested high," Stone said. "We got out and we contested shooters. I give Ebba a ton of credit for her defense against Matter and against Kelly Mazzante. Those are two great players that had sub-par shooting performances and I think Ebba's defense had a lot to do with that."
Tuesday, Ebba held 5-9 Illinois guard Angelina Williams, the Illini's leading scorer at 16 per contest, to six points on 2 of 6 shooting in the second half. The Badgers' team defense was evident in the first half, when the squad played zone almost exclusively and held Williams to 2-for-7 shooting and five points.
"Defensively, Ebba did another fantastic job," guard Stephanie Rich said, "and Lello got her shot blocks as well."
When teams visit the paint, senior Lello Gebisa, the Big Ten's tallest player at 6-7, uses her length to deny the basket. She is averaging 1.8 blocks per game, and has significantly improved her defensive rebounding.
Tuesday, Lello tallied five blocks and six rebounds, and also scored the team's first four points, on her way to an 11-point night.
"She is capable of a triple-double the way Lello is playing right now defensively," Stone said.
More importantly, Wisconsin snapped a four-game losing streak with a 66-57 win over Illinois, the team's first Big Ten victory of the season.
"I just felt really good these last couple of games and I think everyone's confidence is up," Lello Gebisa said.
Friday, the Gebisas, who hail from West Lafayette, Ind., and the Badgers will try to keep it going in their final non-conference game of the season against IUPU-Fort Wayne (5-9 overall). Ebba Gebisa will almost certainly be matched with 5-10 guard Amy Gearlds, who has already hit 40 threes this season, connecting on 35 percent of her attempts from beyond the arc. Gearlds is averaging 18.9 points per game, 28 per contest in the Mastodons' last three outings.
Lello, meanwhile, should have the advantage inside: Fort Wayne's tallest starter stands just 6-0.