Before Thursday’s game against Boston College, the Wisconsin women’s basketball team’s last home game will have been 18 days earlier, when it beat Northern Illinois at the Kohl Center on Nov. 17. A road game at Alabama was followed by the Vanderbilt Thanksgiving Tournament, so now the Badgers (4-2) will finally return home to the Kohl Center on Thursday to face the Eagles (3-4) as part of the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The Badgers have lost two of their last three games, the losses coming against those two aforementioned SEC teams. The lone win came in the first round of the Vanderbilt Tournament against Mercer. Digging themselves in an early hole against Vanderbilt, head coach Bobbie Kelsey liked how her team battled back despite its early deficit.
“I did like the fight I saw in the kids in that Vanderbilt game,” Kelsey said. “They could have folded it up and called it a day, but they didn’t. We would have liked to have won the game obviously, but it was a different type of body language in that game as opposed to the Alabama loss. We still have work to do, but we’re going to get ready for Boston College on Thursday.”
Thursday’s game will be against yet another opponent from the power six conferences. The Badgers are in the fourth game of a stretch where they will play five power six conference teams in seven games. After Alabama, Vanderbilt and Boston College, the Badgers will play Marquette and Washington in the next week and a half. Despite the tough schedule, fifth-year senior guard Taylor Wurtz, a veteran on the team, knows this comes with the territory during non-conference play.
“That’s preseason, so that’s what you expect,” Wurtz said. “I’ve been here for five years, so I know what’s coming and is ahead of us. You really have to focus in and concentrate on each scouting report because each team is different.”
Wurtz, who has returned this season after a back injury forced her to miss the majority of last season, is leading the team in both points (14.7) and rebounds (9.2) per game. Her average 21 points, 10.5 rebounds and four assists during the Vanderbilt Tournament were good enough to grab her a spot on the all-tournament team. Kelsey also knows Wurtz helps make the difference on her team.
“Taylor is the type of player that, when you need a basket, Taylor can get you a basket,” Kelsey said. “She can make very difficult shots, ones that you don’t see a lot. She just has that talent. “
Boston College and Wisconsin have been familiar foes in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge as this will be the second time they’ve squared off against one another as part of the challenge’s six year history. They also played each other in 2003. Wisconsin lost at Boston College in 2003 but beat them in 2011 at the Kohl Center. The Eagles are led by senior guard Kristen Doherty who, like Wurtz, leads her team in points (14.4) and rebounds (5.4) per game.
Redshirt junior forward Michala Johnson, who paced the Badgers with 21 points against Mercer, understands that they will have to stop Boston College’s shooters, including Doherty.
“[Boston College] plays a lot of zone,” Johnson said. “They have some good shooters on their team as far as what we saw on the highlights we looked at.”
Going up against the zone, the Badgers will likely have to knock down their three-point shots. In its last game against Vanderbilt, UW had a season-high nine three-pointers which was just three short of the school record. Wurtz and senior guard Morgan Paige are currently first and third respectively on the team in three-point shots made with junior Jacki Gulczynski ranking second with 10. The Badgers’ starters can all score as each one of them is averaging double figures in points this season.
Regardless of scouting reports, tournaments or playing tough teams, the Badgers are just happy to be back at the Kohl Center. UW is 2-0 at home this season and has a 2-1 mark at home in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Wisconsin lost last year’s challenge game at Virginia Tech, 38-47. For UW, there might be a bit of revenge against the ACC on their mind.
“Yeah it’s good to be back home — just to be back, seeing our fans, and playing in the Kohl Center,” Wurtz said.