Wisconsin (11-15 overall, 3-10 Big Ten) has struggled mightily on the road this season, going 1-10 in games away from the friendly confines of the Kohl Center. But the Badgers have a chance Saturday to double their abysmal road win total, when they take on a very comparable Northwestern team.
Wisconsin assistant coach Alysiah Bond was very quick to point out the Badgers’ road woes when asked about the importance of Saturday’s game, but ensured Wisconsin will be ready to play.
“It’s a big game because we’ve also had difficulty winning on the road. Similar teams, in terms of how our seasons have gone, and you can best believe that both teams understand the importance of it and will be ready to play on Saturday,” Bond said.
As of Wednesday, Wisconsin had yet to look at the scouting report prepared for Northwestern (12-14, 4-9 Big Ten), but there is still plenty for the Badgers to concentrate on in preparation for Saturday. A large part of Wisconsin’s focus will be directed in particular to small, yet crucial parts of its own game. Highlighted in those areas are turnovers, which have hampered the Badgers all year, especially on the road. Wisconsin committed 27 turnovers in its 60-53 loss at Illinois Monday night, just one instance of sloppy play costing the Badgers.
Bond crossed sport lines and utilized an NFL reference to help explain the Badgers’ ball handling and turnover struggles this season.
“You cannot throw floaty, lofty passes against a team. It’s kind of like Darrelle Revis or Deion Sanders. If they have closing speed, it looks open, and you’re tempted to throw it. They baited you and got you to throw the exact kind of pass you wanted. They step right in and go the other way,” Bond said.
Junior guard and co-captain Morgan Paige was also cognizant of her team’s weaknesses and also of Nortwesterns’ height advantage – it has two players 6-foot-5 or taller – but with the Wildcats’ similar record she expects a very even fight.
They’re pretty big in size so it’s going to be really crucial for us to get on the boards, offensively and defensively. From the last game, just take care of the ball. That’s going to be reiterated. Twenty-seven turnovers is too many,” Paige said. “They play hard. Just like us, they’re in a similar situation where they’re in games in the Big Ten. This is a good game for us, it’s a good matchup.”
Bond also sees Northwestern as a good matchup, in part due to the fact that the Wildcats’ season has been quite similar to Badgers’ not only in its record but also in terms of its competitiveness and late-game struggles.
“What we’ve seen from Northwestern is similar to a degree to some of what we’ve seen from ourselves. They’ve been in every game this season, and they don’t do a lot of things to hurt themselves,” Bond said. “That’s part of what’s put them in the position that they’re in, in terms of being in those games. They make smart decisions, they play well together, and I think they keep it simple, and that’s the formula that’s been effective for them. They’ve just had some problems closing games, as we have as well.”
Wisconsin and Northwestern have both had very limited rotations all year long with really only one player from both teams’ benches seeing significant time, so Saturday’s winner will most likely be the battle of the starters. Of the Wildcats’ starters, three players average double figures, while the Badgers only have two who score better than ten points per game.
If Wisconsin can find more balance scoring Saturday it could very well bring home a crucial late-season win, and with a road victory the Badgers might just want to go on the road again.
“We don’t want to fold. We don’t want to be done. We can do the best as we possibly can with every opportunity that we have,” Paige said.