Senior guard Ashley Josephson sat Friday against Marquette due to a left hip injury that she sustained in Hawaii but played Sunday against Notre Dame, senior forward Kjersten Bakke injured her right knee in Friday's game, and sophomore guard Janese Banks was forced to wear goggles versus Notre Dame to protect an injury over her left eye that she suffered against Marquette. Josephson and Banks are expected to play Thursday, but Bakke is doubtful.
However, the Badgers aren't using any of these injuries as excuses to describe last weekend's losses but instead are following their motto of "team unity," which reminds the players to win and lose as a team.
"What we really stress is team unity," senior captain Ashley Josephson said. "If somebody (is) not scoring one time, like if my shot is off, I know that Jolene [Anderson] or Janese [Banks] will pick it up on the perimeter. If one person is down, the rest of the team needs to pick it up and that's the biggest philosophy we have. Everyone needs to work together."
The injuries, though, have allowed a chance for UW's young players to see court time. Against Notre Dame, freshman forward Caitlin Gibson received her first collegiate start for the Badgers and played tremendously. In 24 minutes of action, Gibson was 6 of 10 from the floor for a career-high 12 points and hauled down five rebounds.
"I was nervous but it gave me a lot of adrenaline, which I think helped me," Gibson said. "It was a really good stepping-stone for me to start. I still need to work on rebounding, defense, and offense. I really need to work my butt off."
"The [younger players] have stepped up and given us a boost," head coach Lisa Stone said. "Even Christine Spenser, who didn't play last weekend, gives us quality length and strength on the perimeter. Caitlin Gibson, who seems to be a crowd favorite now, came in and did great against Notre Dame and is somebody who is a fun-loving person. Her confidence is building, her toughness is getting better and give us a presence inside."
Wisconsin will have its hands full this week as they have face two teams with different styles in hosting South Dakota State and traveling to Kansas. The Badgers, however, are accustomed to each style.
South Dakota State (4-2) plays an up-tempo style similar to the Idaho State team the Badgers beat in Hawaii. Kansas (5-0) plays physical down at the blocks like a Big Ten team. These two games will show the Badgers can play and succeed against different styles of basketball.
"South Dakota State pushes the ball hard," Stone said. "They remind me of the UNLV teams back in the day with the run and gun. They all shoot 3s and have good defensive transition. We're going to have to have our track shoes on and control the tempo"
"Kansas reminds me a lot of a Big Ten team. I know their coach and their style. [Kansas head coach] Bonnie [Henrickson] is trying to rebuild their program and get [the program] back to what it use to be. They have some nice players and a good solid point guard.
"Both of the teams we're going to play this weekend have very solid guard play. Defensively, we're going to have to contest, contain, rebound, play our kind of defense and, hopefully, get some wins."
"It's a collective effort," Nelson said. "Obviously, not one person is going to win the game for you. But with so many people injured or questionable for games, we just have to come together as a team and play [as a team]… You want to be a strong a player on offense as you do on defense. As a team, it has to come together for all of us."
Along with anchoring the team in the post, the four seniors have been instrumental in coaching the younger players, particularly Gibson.
"The [upperclassmen] have been amazing," Gibson said. "They are my rock and help me so much. I am the youngest post player on this team, with three seniors and Danielle behind me. They are so much more aware of things. They have been here a lot longer than I have so they are just helping me get (used) to whole aspects of the college game. They really have been amazing and have helped me out a lot."
While the adversity hasn't been a welcoming sight for coach Lisa Stone, she has used it to evaluate how her team reacts to such issues. So far this season, Stone is pleased with what she has seen from her team and knows that this team is much improved from last season.
"Chemistry, closeness, toughness are all the things are exposed in times of adversity," Stone said. "We're really proud of our kids because they are handling it well."
"We are leaps and bounds improved than last year and you can see that. We are a much better team. The Marquette game is a blip on the screen that we don't even want to talk about anymore. It happened. It's over. We didn't shoot the ball and it happened, but, we got back out on the court against a ranked team and put our players in the position to be successful and, hopefully, that will continue."
What: Wisconsin (4-3) v. South Dakota State (4-2)
When: Thursday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. Central
Site: Kohl Center (17,142), Madison, Wis.
Broadcasts: Live radio broadcast on 1310 WIBA-AM in Madison.
Series notes: This will be the first meeting between Wisconsin and South Dakota State… Wisconsin upset then-No. 23 Kansas 73-72 in the first round of the 1995 NCAA Tournament in Lubbock, Texas, in the teams' only meeting.