When: Thursday, Feb. 26, 7 p.m. CST
Site: Assembly Hall, Urbana-Champaign, Ill.
Broadcasts: WTSO-AM Radio (1070)
Series Notes: Illinois leads the all-time series 25-21.
The end is near for the Wisconsin women's basketball team. The team will travel down to the Land of Lincoln in hopes of not only sweeping Illinois this season but also finding its first Big Ten victory away from home.
Back in January these two teams met at the Kohl Center and the Badgers displayed one of their better games of the season. Wisconsin was able to keep a controlling lead for a majority of the game and jumped ahead 51-34 with 10 minutes and 37 seconds left in the game. The Illini gave the Badgers a little scare when they cut the lead down to six points with three minutes left, but Wisconsin was able to keep Illinois off its heals and pulled away for a 66-57 victory.
While UW had five total players scoring in double digits, including junior guard Stephanie Rich's 18 points and four 3-pointers, it was the inside game that conquered Illinois. The Badgers utilized the paint well, outscoring the Illini 34-18 and out-rebounding them 41-29.
Though the Badgers grabbed a majority of the rebounds the first time around, Illinois forward Cindy Dallas was able to grab 13 of her own. The 6-foot-2 senior is no stranger around the basket. Dallas has led the Big Ten the past two years in boards and also broke Illinois' all-time rebounding record. Currently she is nabbing 10.0 caroms a game and also contributing 12.9 points.
"That's one of the biggest things we're looking for in this game, to keep (Dallas) off the boards," UW sophomore forward Jordan Wilson said. "Whether we're in a zone or in man, we have to find her even if somebody is not guarding her. That is going to be one of our biggest points (to the game)."
Besides Dallas, junior forward Angelina Williams and junior guard Tiffanie Guthrie pick up the rest of the slack. Williams contributes a team-high 16.2 points as well as 5.2 boards a game. Guthrie has started every game for Illinois this season and is averaging 14.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and a team-high 3.3 assists a game.
Though both the Badgers and Illinois are a far cry away from the top of the Big Ten, sophomore guard Ashley Josephson knows that it is no time to take any game lightly.
"It's tournament time, so every team is thinking about stepping up their game," Josephson said. "Every player is going to be out there giving it their all. You just got to step up because it is the end of the season and two games left, that's how our attitude is. We have to step on the court with confidence and go after them."
While Wisconsin has struggled on the road, and Assembly Hall is a notoriously difficult place to play, the Badgers have the momentum of their 66-62 win against Indiana last Sunday to carry them through the game. Though the team's record may not be what UW head coach Lisa Stone would like to see, she is still pleased with the way her team is coming together.
"As hard as this season may appear, our team is playing great right now and this is the time to play well," Stone said. "We have a tall task in front of us going to Illinois on Thursday…This is a team that we got at the Kohl center. They'll be much better (at Assembly Hall), but the way our kids are playing right now and getting more people involved and a different hero each day, those are good things."
After the Badgers trip south to Illinois, the team will return to the Kohl Center for one final time this season when they take on Ohio State on Sunday at 7 p.m.
- Sophomore forward Kjersten Bakke will not play Thursday. Bakke has started five of the past six games but suffered an injury to her right knee during practice on Tuesday and will not travel with the team to Illinois.
- Wisconsin's victory over Illinois earlier this season gave head coach Lisa Stone her first Big Ten victory with the team.
- Though the Badgers' record may not look great on paper, they have two more wins than last season, when they went 7-21. Also, their 6-6 record at the Kohl Center is a big step away from last year's 3-11.
- The last time the Badgers went winless in Big Ten road games was the 1990-91 season.
- Badger junior guard Stephanie Rich still knows how to dish the basketball. She has been on top of the Big Ten in assists for most of the season, as she is currently, averaging 6.0 per game.
- While Dallas will be one of the better players on the court on Thursday, she is also one of the oldest. She tore her ACL for the second time in her career during what would have been her freshman year in 1998-99. The next season she had knee injuries and tore her ACL for a third time. Dallas was able to recover from her injuries and received her first season of eligibility in 2000-01. She is now playing out her final year of eligibility as a sixth-year senior.