"I think this game here is one in which we can build confidence, get back to our style of play, get back to the things we do well, and continue to work on the things we need to improve on," head coach Lisa Stone said.
The Badgers have fared a lot better at the Kohl Center than on the road this season. Wisconsin (6-9 overall) has racked up five of its six victories in Madison, including a 5-0 record in non-conference home games.
Wisconsin started off Big Ten play splitting its first two games, but has struggled recently, losing four straight. A non-conference match-up against a 2-14 team will give the Badgers a good opportunity to return to their winning ways and gain some confidence heading into their next conference game Jan. 27 against the Big Ten's highest ranked team, No. 4 Ohio State.
The non-conference opponent was scheduled because of the 11-day break the Badgers have in conference play. Wisconsin had a two-week layoff prior to its Big Ten opener Dec. 30. This is a different situation, Stone said, because the Badgers can ill afford to take a long break in the heart of the Big Ten schedule.
"We needed a game, and to play a game against an old friend and a former coach here and a team that had a break too [is nice]," said Stone, referring to Cleveland State head coach Kate Peterson, a former UW assistant under Jane Albright, Stone's predecessor. "So it worked well for everybody and I'm glad because I don't like to sit idle for a week."
Despite the Vikings' poor record, Wisconsin is well aware they cannot look past Cleveland State, especially if UW's shooting woes continue. In the past six games, the Badgers shot under 37 percent five times, including their three worst shooting nights of the year – games versus Minnesota (26 percent), Penn State (30 percent), and at Northwestern (35 percent).
"We can't approach any game differently," junior forward Jordan Wilson said. "We have to treat every game the same way, and treat every team with respect and come in and try to play our best with the best effort we can bring.
Cleveland State's height down low, highlighted by 6-foot-3 senior center Mandy Sichting, leads the Vikings post attack with 8.9 points per game and 3.9 rebounds per game. In Cleveland State's loss to Loyola Saturday, the Vikings outscored Loyola 30-6 in the paint and had an 11-rebound advantage.
"There is no question we are undersized in the Big Ten," Stone said. "And Cleveland State is bigger than we are inside and we need to be conscious of that, using this game to help us gain confidence and also help with the next opponent."
Cleveland State head coach Kate Peterson was an assistant at UW for six years and knows the program well, having recruited and coached the current upperclassmen.
"It will be fun," said Wilson who played one season while Peterson was an assistant. "It will be really nice to see her. It will be a lot of fun to play against her and see how Kate has come along as a head coach and to see her coaching style."
"I think it will be special, but our players will be focused," Stone said. "It will be good to see her though, Kate's a friend of mine too."
Peterson is not the only Viking returning to Wisconsin. Assistant coach Kyle Rechlicz (formerly Kyle Black) played at UW and freshman guard Brittany Korth, the Vikings' third-leading scorer (7.0 points per game) is a Clinton, Wis., native.
What: Wisconsin (6-9 overall) vs. Cleveland State (2-14)
When: Thursday, Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.
Where: Kohl Center (17,142) Madison, Wis.
Broadcasts: 1310 WIBA AM and UWBadgers.com will provide live audio broadcasts.
Series Notes: Wisconsin leads the all-time series 2-1. The Badgers have won the last two meetings.