After falling at home to Oral Roberts Sunday, the Wisconsin women’s basketball team will be looking to pick up its second in-state victory of the season against the Marquette Golden Eagles Tuesday night.
Taking down Milwaukee at the Klotsche Center in their season opener, the Badgers (1-1) will be suiting up for the third time in five days to try to regain momentum against the Golden Eagles at the Al McGuire Center after a tough home loss. Marquette heads into Tuesday’s game at 2-0, and much more than Wisconsin’s nonconference record is on the line in Milwaukee.
In addition to the bragging rights the Badgers will play for against one of their biggest in-state rivals, head coach Bobbie Kelsey pointed out that a win over Marquette helps build the future for the program.
“It gives us an opportunity to kind of brag a little bit, if we do complete these games in state,” Kelsey said in her Monday press conference. “For recruiting purposes, it’s definitely nice to say you’re the big dog in the state.”
Through their first two contests, Kelsey’s squad has put up solid offensive numbers, and UW is already scoring more points under the new coach’s system. Wisconsin is shooting 40 percent from the field and just under 35 percent from long range thus far, but showed its issues taking care of the ball and slowing down big-time scorers in the 17-point loss to Oral Roberts.
With their top three scorers from the 2010-11 season all graduated, the Golden Eagles are relying on youth — the team has no seniors, one junior and six freshman — to carry them this season. While Marquette lacks age, forwards Sarina Simmons and Katherine Plouffe saw playing time in every game last year.
Simmons and Plouffe have led the Golden Eagles with solid performances in the team’s two wins to open the year, and center Apiew Ojulu has proven to be a legitimate inside threat in the first two games of her career.
“Marquette’s a very experienced team,” Kelsey said. “They’re young this year, but they’re going to be tough, and we have to go to their place and try to steal one because we let one go [at the Kohl Center].”
In their first loss of the year to Oral Roberts, the Badgers set a program record with 31 turnovers while surrendering 23 steals to their opponent. The incredibly high number of turnovers was a major factor in the loss, and it will be an area that Wisconsin focuses on improving against Marquette.
Junior guard Taylor Wurtz has stepped up for the Badgers so far, leading all scorers Sunday with 15 points. Wisconsin will be counting on her hot three-point shooting to power its offense against Marquette. Tying a career-high with 15 rebounds against Oral Roberts, Wurtz is quickly separating herself as a player who can make plays on both sides of the ball.
“Rebounding is something that we work on in practice and crashing the offensive boards is something that we do every day,” Wurtz said after Sunday’s game. “But I think my teammates did a really good job of boxing it out and making it easy for me to go grab the ball.”
Though Wurtz will be crucial to a victory, the Badgers’ ability to protect the post will be key against a Golden Eagles squad that boasts six players standing at least 6-foot. UW forwards Cassie Rochel, Anya Covington and Ashley Thomas will have their hands full Tuesday with a Marquette offense that relies on its success inside to produce offense.
As UW continues to adapt to a new coaching style and an unfamiliar system, Kelsey is confident that her team will continue to pick up on the fast-paced offensive system and see the results on the hardwood.
“I’ve asked them to play a little bit faster, and I think one thing I’m noticing is that because they didn’t play like that previously, it’s just going to be more growing pains to get them to figure out when to dribble, when not to dribble, when to pass it,” Kesley said. “Everybody’s trying to do something to help, but sometimes you’re just doing too much and not making the simple play.”