As the final four games of the regular season approach, the Wisconsin women’s basketball team is hoping to develop some momentum before the Big Ten tournament.
The Badgers took a step in the right direction Sunday night, surviving a tough home test by defeating Indiana 66-58. Combined with a 55-47 win at Bloomington back on Jan. 28, the victory marked the first time in history that UW was able to sweep a season series with Indiana.
“I’m very pleased with our players’ performance,” head coach Lisa Stone said. “They endured a very competitive Indiana team and held on by making some free throws down the stretch, which was crucial for us.”
After defeating the Hoosiers, the Badgers will play host once again Thursday night, when seventh-ranked Ohio State visits the Kohl Center.
Wisconsin’s bench players played a key role in Sunday’s victory over Indiana.
When top sub Taylor Wurtz was forced to sit down after recording four early fouls, other reserves were called upon to step up into a greater role.
Stone liked what she saw.
“I thought our bench gave us tremendous energy,” Stone said. “We got great minutes out of Anya Covington and Jade Davis; that really helped fill in some gaps.”
Davis and Covington played 23 and 20 minutes, respectively. Though Davis didn’t record a point, she grabbed a rebound, had a steal and dished out one assist. Covington scored eight points and nabbed seven rebounds. She was also successful in drawing fouls, making four free throws in six attempts.
Stone was particularly happy because she knows the important role reserves can play toward the end of a long season.
“You’re a lot sharper when you’re fresh,” Stone said. “That’s where your bench has to step in and keep things going at a high level.”
Currently tied for third in a very tight Big Ten race, the Badgers are in position to make a push for the number two seed in the conference tournament. Ohio State is assured the No. 1 seed after a win at Minnesota on Sunday that saw them clinch their sixth straight Big Ten title outright.
“They are led by a terrific point guard and a post player inside,” Stone said of the Buckeyes. “They are deep and very talented.”
With the No. 1 seed all wrapped up, UW’s fight for second place will go through OSU Thursday. After that game, the Badgers must separate themselves from the middle of the pack teams in Michigan, Penn State and Iowa to close out the season.
Stone asserted her team must have success in its final regular season stretch to accomplish this goal.
“Going into the Big Ten tournament, my hope is that we’re not playing on that first day,” Stone said. “We dictate that by taking care of business right now.”
Wisconsin is also hoping to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament, something no Badger women’s squad has done since the 2001-2002 season.