Badgers ready for challenge

No. 12 Minnesota women's basketball team will grace the Kohl Center Thursday night

Janel McCarville commands superlatives like she dominates the paint. She is the best post scorer in the Big Ten and perhaps the country. Ditto her rebounding and shot blocking ability.

For all the gaudy numbers McCarville has racked up this season and throughout her impressive career, though, it is her supporting cast, and her unselfishness, that makes McCarville and 12th-ranked Minnesota so dangerous.

"It's a huge challenge. Obviously we are not going to completely shut her down," Wisconsin junior forward Annie Nelson said. "She's one of the top in the nation. We just need to contain her."

The Wisconsin women's basketball team (6-5 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) has its shot at McCarville and the Gophers Thursday night at the Kohl Center. The Badgers have played well at home all season (5-1 this year) but have not played a team as talented as Minnesota.

"[McCarville] is the face of the team, but they have a lot of other potential scorers as well," UW senor guard Stephanie Rich said.

The Gophers (11-2, 2-0) are 10-1 since McCarville returned from a broken hand, the only loss a 75-67 home defeat to No. 1 LSU, a game in which McCarville scored 31 points and snagged 13 rebounds.

McCarville can score from the low block or away from the basket. She commands double and triple teams but sell out to stop her and she will ravage your defense with nifty passes that will best your typical point guard. McCarville, a 6-foot-2 senior center, is fourth in the Big Ten in assists, averaging 4.1 per game.

"If you come over and double her you are leaving a player wide open and she has the dish," Nelson said. "It's behind the back, it's over her head. It's all different passes."

Of Wisconsin's post defenders, Nelson will likely spend the most time on McCarville, but the Badgers will rotate a number of players in her direction. When McCarville flashes to the high post, guards like Rich may even check her.

"We are working on our zone defense and our man-to-man defense," Nelson said. "All principals of the game. We are just going to have to play solid defense on her."

"She's a great player. She probably knows what's coming," Rich said. "We just have to contain her and make sure that we box her out."

Minnesota, however, is much more than simply McCarville. Forward Jamie Broback (14.4 points per game) and point guard Shannon Schonrock (10.1) are proven scorers. Broback can slash to the basket or spot up on the perimeter while Schonrock is a terrific 3-point shooter. Shooting guard April Calhoun, a transfer from Iowa, is 11th in the Big Ten in assists (3.4) and seventh in steals (2.5). She had seven steals in Minnesota's win over Indiana Sunday. Top reserve Kelly Roysland adds a scoring punch (7.4 points per game) off the bench.

"While containing [McCarville] we can't let another player go off on us as well," Rich said.

McCarville, however, stands out. The Stevens Point, Wis., native leads the Big Ten in rebounding (10.2 per game), is eighth in scoring (16.8 points per game), second in blocks (2.36) and fourth in steals (2.64). She needs just nine more rebounds to become the 10th player in Big Ten history with at least 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. She has 38 career double-doubles, including one in each of her last four games.

"McCarville is a great player," Rich said. "She really just leads that team by example. If she's not scoring, she's rebounding or playing great defense, making sweet passes."

If McCarville gets going it will open up opportunities for Schonrock and company along the perimeter. The Gophers' point guard is 28 of 69 on 3-pointers this year while Minnesota as a team is second in the Big Ten at 39 percent. The Badgers, meanwhile, have been abysmal at stopping 3s. Their 37 percent opponents' 3-point percentage is worst in the Big Ten.

Wisconsin can certainly score. Led by freshman guard Jolene Anderson and senior guard Stephanie Rich, the Badgers are averaging 74.1 points per game, third in the Big Ten.

UW is 10th, however, in scoring defense (72.4) and will be in for a long evening if they cannot clamp down against a team as strong as Minnesota. Led by McCarville, the Gophers are ninth in the nation in field goal percentage (48) and second in the country in rebounding margin (+11.5).

"It is going to be a true grind for 40 minutes," Rich said.

What: Wisconsin (6-5 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) v. Minnesota (11-2, 2-0)
When: Thursday, Jan. 6 at 7 p.m. Central
Where: Kohl Center (17,142) in Madison, Wis.
Broadcasts: Fox Sports Net North will televise the game live. Live radio broadcast in Madison on WIBA AM 1310.
Series notes: Wisconsin holds a 27-24 edge in the all-time series but Minnesota has won four of the last five meetings, including the last two in Madison.

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