One of the most famous clichés in sports says, “We’ve got to take one game at a time.” While every person who extensively plays or watches sports is probably sick of hearing this vague statement, it has worked so far this season for the UW women’s basketball team.
Sporting a 5-1 record and coming off of a championship in the Arizona Basketball Classic this past weekend, the leaders of the team all echo the sentiment that they have been able to take one game at a time and not look ahead to big games, especially Big Ten play.
“In the past we’ve always looked ahead to games instead of looking at the games that were at hand, especially when we were going against in-state or smaller schools,” senior guard Kyle Black said. “This year I think that we’re looking at each school individually. We’re not focusing on just top-25 teams this year, but we’re focusing on every team.”
Senior forward Jessie Stomski agreed with Black, while head coach Jane Albright couldn’t agree more with the both of them.
“[I would agree with them] 100 percent,” Albright said. “I think it’s a sign of maturity where we can think about this many things very effectively. I never hear [the team] talk about more than one game. We’ve talked about this type of focus.”
In previous years, however, it may be argued that the Badgers were thinking about tougher non-conference opponents or the start of the Big Ten schedule instead of their in-state rivals.
That mentality may have cost the team against these in-state opponents, particularly Marquette, who has beaten the Badgers 81-73 and 69-65 in their last two meetings.
“I think sometimes that when we’re like this year, like any year, our non-conference schedule is very tough, and then (our in-state games) are usually right in the thick of our non-conference season,” Stomski said.
“Maybe sometimes we have taken them a little bit lightly in the past, but I don’t think we are at all this year.”
On the other hand, Albright feels the losses that Wisconsin has suffered to Marquette were more a product of Marquette’s experience, not Wisconsin’s inability to take them seriously or lack of talent.
“I think the reason was that they had the best team in the history of their program at that point in time, (especially) experience-wise,” said Albright. “They had kids just like we’ve got this year that had started every game since they were there. I don’t think it was a talent thing, I think it was just experience.”
At 2-4, this year’s Golden Eagles may not be as solid as previous ones, but they still show some good talent as they take on the Badgers Tuesday night at Milwaukee’s Cellular One Arena.
Junior forward Rachel Klug scored 17 points in just 22 minutes of play in a 65-63 loss to Michigan State last Sunday. In a 67-65 win over UW-Milwaukee earlier in the season, sophomore forward Crystal Weaver scored 19 points, a season-high for a Golden Eagle player on the season.
Senior guard Kristi Johnson and 6-foot-4 senior center Sara Zawodny, who averaged 10.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game last year and could pose a solid matchup for the Badgers’ frontline, lead the Golden Eagles this season.
While the Badgers may want revenge on Marquette as well as other in-state rivals to prove that they are the best in the state, they made it clear that this is just another game that acts as a piece to a larger puzzle.
“This year we’ve got a whole different mindset,” said Albright. “Now it’s just another game. I think we just want to win the game just like we want to win against North Carolina State or whoever it is. In years gone past I think we might have said that we want to prove that we’re the best team in the state. We’re just trying to get better and win every game.”
Black certainly has the same mentality as her coach.
“I don’t know if it’s about pride as much as it is just about a win on our schedule, and we’re trying to get as many of those as we can this year,” she said.
So while Wisconsin does not view a win over Marquette as a chance to get revenge and prove itself as the best team in the state of Wisconsin, as much as it views the game as just another opportunity to win, one thing is for sure: the team will focus on Marquette –and only Marquette — until the clock reads zeros tomorrow night.