Worgull: Starting to Fight Back?

With high expectations entering the season, the Badgers entered their two-game homestand 8-9 overall. After two solid victories over teams in the bottom half of the conference, have the Badgers found their momentum?

MADISON – This was how the 2007-08 season was supposed to go for Lisa Stone and the Wisconsin women's basketball team.

Solid shooting, dominant defense, contributions from the bench and Jolene Anderson carrying the scoring burden.

Observe, follow and repeat often.

Other than Anderson holding up her end of the bargain, the high expectations have weighted down the Badgers over the first three months of the season.

Picked to finish second in the conference, Wisconsin entered Sunday afternoon's contest second-to-last in the Big Ten. A stark contrast for a team that returned every letter winner from a team that made it to the finals of the 2007 WNIT Tournament.

"To say things have gone according to plan would be an incorrect statement," said Stone recently. "Our players have had their fair share of adversity this season."

What Stone said could best be described as the ‘sugar-coated' version. Although the Badgers have played well below their own expectations this season, the last two weeks have dealt plenty of gut punches.

Two weeks to the day, despite a career-high 42 points by Anderson, Wisconsin's offense disappeared in overtime at Iowa City. Four days later, the Badgers saw an 11-point second-half lead evaporate in part to 21 turnovers and a last second mid-court heave by a 6-6 center to send the game into overtime, ultimately letting the heartbreak get the better of them.

"(That shot) put us into kind of a deflated huddle there before overtime," Stone said at the time. "It was a heartbreaker there for our kids. We made some poor decisions out of stress, couldn't get this going (and) had a chance to win the game."

Call it a rallying point. Call it the bottom of the barrel. But whatever the cause, the Badgers have finally started to resemble that record-setting team that graced the Kohl Center a season ago.

Facing its first nationally-ranked team in Columbus, the Badgers tied the game twice in the second half before succumbing to Marscilla Packer's 32 points in the waning seconds. With a little pop in their step, Wisconsin dismantled Penn State 79-52 last Thursday and kept it rolling with a demolition of Northwestern; dominating every statistical category.

"I believe the ice broke against Penn State, hoped it would continue today and I thought it did," Stone said. "We started out against Penn State with two Janese Banks steals. That set the tone right away."

"I don't think there's a coach that would disagree that they are better than their record," Northwestern head coach Beth Combs added. "Their record is not an indication of how good they are or how good they will be come tournament time."

But how much stock does one put into this game? Northwestern has lost 11 of its last 12 games, are 0-for-8 in the Big Ten, injury plagued (three players have ACL injuries) and looked as coordinated as a puppy running across linoleum.

But the hard times Wisconsin had been through lately, the Badgers would gladly take a win over a local area high school, let alone a team cemented in the Big Ten cellar.

Plain and simple, Wisconsin completed everything on its check list.

Solid shooting – Wisconsin shot 52 percent in the first half, 48 percent for the game and 5-for-10 from the perimeter, most of which was set up by 21 assists by the Badgers.

"We like each other," Stone said. "We're sharing the ball, passing it around and having some fun."

Dominant defense – Wisconsin held Northwestern to only four first-half field goals, forced 17 turnovers and held leading scorer Amy Jaeschke to only 10 points.

"We're executing the game plan," Banks said. "We spend the majority of our practice time on defense. We have been focusing on that a lot and we are getting results."

Contributions from the bench – 22 of Wisconsin's 75 points came from the bench, led by freshman Lin Zastrow's eight points in 20 minutes.

"There has been a resurgance from our young freshmen, namely Lin Zastrow, who gives us another inside focus," Stone said. "There is certainly some confidence in the locker room now."

Jolene Anderson carrying the scoring burden – Although 11 different players, Anderson led the Badgers in scoring for the 11th time, scoring a game-high 24 on an efficient 10-for-17 shooting. To top it off, she recorded her 22nd career double-double.

"We could not stop her earlier when it counted," Combs admitted.

But with the Big Ten season halfway complete, the Badgers are sitting in a tie for ninth place and play six of their final nine games against the top portion of the conference.

Have the Badgers turned a corner and emerged from the darkness? We won't have to wait long to find out.

"You either throw it in or keep fighting, and we're going to keep going, we'll find a way," Stone said. "We have to find a shovel right now, but we've got a good group in there, and they have to know that it's going to turn for us."

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