When: Thursday, March 4, 2 p.m. CST
Site: Big Ten Tournament – Conseco Field House, Indianapolis.
Broadcasts: Fox Sports North, WIBA-AM 1310 and online at www.uwbadgers.com.
Series Notes: Indiana leads the all-time series 35-13.
It is tournament time and the Wisconsin women's basketball team knows that there is no looking back. The eighth seeded Badgers will first face off against the ninth seeded Indiana Hoosiers on Thursday in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament. If the Badgers stumble, the team can pack up and head home for good but if victory is on their side, they will then go after No. 1 seed Penn State, Friday at 11 a.m.
The Badgers are very familiar with what the Hoosiers will bring to the table. These teams have faced off twice this season and each team took a game on its home court. This time the Badgers will be down a few players due to injuries: sophomore forward Kjersten Bakke and junior guard Stephanie Rich. Bakke went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament during practice Feb. 25 and is having surgery during the post season. In Sunday's loss to Ohio State, Rich went out with five minutes left in the second half with a fractured right hand. Rich not only started every game for Wisconsin before the Big Ten Tournament but led the conference with her 5.8 assists a game.
UW head coach Lisa Stone knows that her team will have to rise to the occasion against the Hoosiers.
"Against Indiana's pressure defense it's imperative that our players make good decisions with the basketball; that we find good passing angles; that we find ways to score," Stone said. "We did not do a good job of that down there. We did a nice job of that here, obviously, at our place, but that was in large part to Bakke and Steph. So we're going to have to fill that void someway and my staff and I will work as hard as we can to prepare our team."
Most recently, these two teams faced off Feb 22 at the Kohl Center. The Badgers came out on fire and hit nine of their first 13 shots to jump out to a 23-9 lead. Indiana, though, did not give up and sophomore guard Cyndi Valentin helped bring the Hoosiers back with her steal and lay-up that made it 64-62 with about two minutes left in the game. Wisconsin, though, hit a pair of free throws in the game's waning moments and hung on to pull out a 66-62 win.
In that victory, Wisconsin got a major boost from sophomore forward Jordan Wilson's 24 points and 10 boards. Valentin was not far behind for the Hoosiers with 21 points, while Jenny DeMuth added 18 points and seven boards.
With or without Bakke and Rich, the game plan is the same for Stone: push the ball in transition, win the rebounding battle and do everything possible to stop Valentin and DeMuth, who are averaging 18.5 and 15.6 points per game, respectively and are adept free throw shooters.
"They've got Cyndi Valentin, who I believe ran 40-straight free throws," Stone said. "She's a great free-throw shooter and they get to the free-throw line. Jenny DeMuth has taken 223 free throws this season. She gets to the free-throw line, had 14 against us a week ago. That's the match-up."
To try and break down Valentin and DeMuth, Stone is relying on her sophomore guard Ashley Josephson and this time will give junior forward Ebba Gebisa, one of the team's best defensive players, Rich's starting spot. Also, freshman guard Kandace Evans will have to fill in some minutes at the point for an absent Rich.
"Kandace is obviously going to have to step in and just be a calming factor as much as she can," Rich said. "I know she hasn't been playing as many minutes these last few games, but I think once she gets on the floor and realizes she has to play more than 20 minutes a game, then she will have to just relax and take care of the ball…I think this is a big learning tool for her as well, into her freshman season and going into next season for her. It'll be huge for her to have the team on her back kind of and just try to lead them as much as possible."
If Wisconsin is able to hold off the Hoosiers one more time they will run into a ferocious Penn State team the following day. This season the Badgers faced the Lions twice and each time came up on the losing end. Earlier this season at the Kohl Center, the Badgers came back into the game after being down 16 points and played Penn State down to the wire but fell short, 60-59, in the end. On Feb 19, things were not as close. The Badgers were able to use a 14-0 run late in the second half to close to within 60-50 with 2:41 left, but Penn State did not allow another Wisconsin point and concluded the game 66-50.
For the Badgers, though, that is all said and done and with the Big Ten Tournament, anything can happen.
"We've faced adversity throughout the year so we'll do it again and rise up and hopefully win games in the tournament and move on," Stone said. "It's tournament time and a lot of crazy things happen in March and I'm hoping that the craziness we come up with on Thursday will provide us with a win."
- Indiana and Wisconsin are no strangers to one another when it comes to the Big Ten Tournament. These two also faced each other last year during the opening round. Indiana was able to pull it off in the end thanks to Kristin Bodine's shot in the lane with 11 seconds left to give IU the 52-51 victory.
- According to Stone, Ebba Gebisa and DeMuth played on the same AAU team in Indiana.
- Wisconsin has a modern era nine-year record of 4-9 in the Big Ten Tournament.
- Wisconsin should be in good shape next year with the six recruits coming in but the Indiana game could be the last time seniors forward Lello Gebisa, center Emily Ashbaugh and guard Abby Simmons compete as Badgers.
- Though Lello Gebisa and Ashbaugh are leaving the team, they have already made their marks on Badger history. Ashbaugh will leave the team as eighth in career field goal percentage with her 50.3 percent. She also has 110 blocks, making her third in UW history. Lello tallied 106 blocks, after transferring from Duke, making her the fifth in history of the program.
- With the completion of her first regular season as Badger head coach, Stone's overall record is now 385-134 in 19 years of coaching.
- In 13 games at the Kohl Center, the Badgers' average attendance was 6,313.