For the second consecutive game, UW senior Danielle Ward scored in double digits Sunday, posting a season-high 14 points.
Ward was more than just an offensive threat, however, as she also made her defensive presence known against a tough-nosed Air Force, recording five steals, six rebounds and a block.
"Danielle was very, very good today," head coach Lisa Stone said. "She only had one foul, played a number of minutes, got on the boards, got steals and scored for us — a tough matchup for Air Force."
At 6-foot-4-inches, Ward is among the tallest players on the team, and, with her long frame, is able to alter shots if not blocking them entirely. Through eight games this season, Ward leads the Badgers in blocked shots with just over one per game and is now third in UW history with 124 career rejections.
Ward's aggressiveness, although an influential part of her game, often lands her on the bench due to foul trouble. She averages nearly three fouls a game and has already fouled out once this season, a game in which the Badgers went on to lose to Wyoming in overtime.
"[Ward] has been plagued with foul trouble for four years and was able to avoid that today," Stone said.
"We need Danielle on the floor. She is a presence offensively and is a tough matchup for teams because of her speed and quickness in the post."
In her senior season, the experience that has mounted over the years allows her to play in games without thinking about the minor aspects of each play. Instead, she combines her natural talent with her acquired knowledge of the game to compete at such a high level.
"I just go out and play," Ward said. "It's really not a matter of confidence, but that I can just go out there and play [without] focusing on a mistake or the last play."
Using her quickness, Ward is able to defend the perimeter, as well as the post. She averages one steal a game, a pleasant surprise for Stone.
"[Ward] has pretty good hands; you saw her get five steals and a breakaway," Stone said after Sunday's game. "In the post, she rerouted some shots, and I thought she was a presence inside and also on the glass."
With 22 offensive rebounds already this season — including five against Air Force — Ward often finds herself within two feet of the basket and guarded by a shorter defender, allowing for an easy offensive put back. Shooting 53 percent on the season, Ward is rarely found more than 10 feet from the basket.
"I have the team behind me and we all play for each other," Ward said. "We go out there as a team with one common goal."
Posting double figures three times this season, Ward is averaging 6.6 points per game. The last two games, including Sunday against Air Force, Ward set season highs in scoring, contributing to the balanced UW scoring attack.
"She's got to be the fastest post player in the Big Ten," Stone said. "She does some good stuff, and we try to encourage her every day."
Practicing against a scout team made up of several men, Ward is able to become accustomed to a more physical style of play and alter her game accordingly.
With the Big Ten season opener quickly approaching, Ward's continued success and improvement in the post will ease tension on the rest of her teammates. The ability to score inside opens things up for the guards to score on the perimeter, a double threat from what Stone refers to as a very deep team.