As part of the women’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Wisconsin will face Virginia Tech Wednesday night. Although many times the cross-conference tournament brings a nonconference opponent the Badgers rarely see, the Hokies are a program Wisconsin is particularly familiar with.
UW head coach Bobbie Kelsey was an assistant at Virginia Tech for four seasons from 2004-07. Furthermore, current Badgers assistant Stacy Cantley joined the program in 2011 after seven years as an assistant for the Hokies. The two coaches have been using their ties to the Hokies to their benefit.
“It helps us because we actually recruited a majority of the team,” Cantley said. “When we scout we really go over the personnel, their strengths and their weaknesses. … It’s an advantage to us because we know the kids really well – we coached them and recruited them.”
Both Kelsey and Cantley noted Virginia Tech’s athleticism may prove to be a factor in Wednesday’s matchup, particularly on the defensive end. It will become an even greater factor when they face a Wisconsin team averaging more than 17 turnovers per game.
“Their defensive pressure is very, very good. We have not seen pressure like this in a while,” Cantley said. “For us, we really need to take care of the ball, be poised on offense and hopefully we won’t turn the ball over like we had earlier in the year.”
Wisconsin’s turnover problems took a turn for the better in their last game, a 73-55 victory over Evansville Sunday. Point guards Tiera Stephen and Dakota Whyte helped the Badgers handle the Evansville press and Wisconsin coughed the ball up just 12 times.
The Hokies’ intensified press will provide more pressure for the entire game, however, so other Badgers like shooting guard Morgan Paige may have to help out.
“It’s going to be a more athletic, up-and-down game, so we really have to be ready for that,” Paige said. “I’ll probably [have to help out more]. That usually happens whenever a press comes up, but we’re capable. We just really have to focus and execute.”
Wednesday’s game represents the Badgers third road game of the season and is another lengthy trek from the Kohl Center.
Two weeks ago, Wisconsin headed west to take on both Gonzaga and Washington State and will head the opposite direction for the game at the Cassell Coliseum.
While the trips have been long, the competition the team has faced has been fierce, and the Badgers are taking advantage of the strong competition.
“Whenever you have the chance to play well-known, good schools like Gonzaga or schools that are ranked, it’s always good to see how you match up with them,” junior center Cassie Rochel said. “Especially going into conference play, it’s nice to know how well you can hang. … We take pride in doing well against them and beating them if we can.”
The nonconference matchups have also helped Wisconsin mold a consistent starting lineup of seven to nine players logging steady minutes. In the Evansville victory, seven Badgers received at least 20 minutes of time, chipping in at least five points each.
From freshmen to seniors, the diverse range of scorers will likely aid the Badgers against any opponent they face, especially the defensive-minded Hokies.
“A lot of the freshmen have been [helping score],” Rochel said. “[AnnMarie Brown], who’s only a sophomore, does well with it too, but as coach said in her press conference, it’s nice to see the seniors lead too. … It’s nice to see that everyone can do it, and coach knows we are all capable.”
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