Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Badger frontline hurting

As if the Wisconsin women’s basketball team’s hopes weren’t down enough entering the Big Ten Tournament this weekend in Indianapolis, there’s more bad news to contend with.

After closing out the regular season by losing nine of its last 10 games, in what has been a monumental freefall, the team has been hit with injuries to two of its key players, starting center Emily Ashbaugh and starting all-Big Ten power forward Jessie Stomski, for the start of the postseason.

According to head coach Jane Albright, Ashbaugh’s back has been bothering her for some time.

“We can only play her in stretches of usually four minutes at a time,” Albright said. “I’d say when we’re in a charter airplane and she walks up and down the aisles pretty much the whole trip, it bothers her somewhat. She’s on medication and doing rehab, most of the time several times a day.”

Ashbaugh has started 26 of the team’s 27 games this season, averaging 23.5 minutes per game, fourth on the team behind Tamara Moore, Stomski, and Kyle Black. She has provided solid numbers, with 6.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

Most important, however, is the fear her 6-foot-5 frame has instilled in opposing players that are willing to drive to the hoop — Ashbaugh leads the team with 40 blocks on the year. Fortunately for the Badgers, she will be able to go this weekend, although possibly at a lower level of play.

“Ashbaugh is definitely playing,” Albright said. “She’s still got somewhat of a hurt back, [so] she’ll have to limit . . . minutes, (but) nothing big. We can probably play her for six minutes and give her a break for six minutes.”

In addition to Ashbaugh’s injury woes, the team may also have to contend with the loss of Stomski, who suffered a concussion in Sunday’s loss to Ohio State. Stomski leads the team in both rebounding and scoring, with 18.1 and 8.5 per game respectively.

Her outlook for this weekend is still uncertain.

“Jessie has not been cleared,” Albright said. “She’s day-to-day, so they’ll re-evaluate her again tomorrow.”

Stomski’s testimony, however, gives the Badgers a glimmer of hope.

“Good and good,” Stomski said about how she feels and her prospects of playing this weekend, starting Thursday against Northwestern. “It’s on a day-to-day basis. I haven’t been cleared to play yet, but I’ve been cleared to do physical activity, which is good. I can ride the bike and shoot around without having a headache.”

Her possible absence from the lineup, coupled with Ashbaugh’s reduced minutes, would force the Badgers to give more minutes to inexperienced players in the front court.

“[We’d] go with [freshmen] Ebba (Gebisa) (and) . . . Leslie (Jauch),” Albright said. “You don’t replace Jessie at this late of date. I don’t think that’s a probable situation that both of them wouldn’t be playing. . . . [Playing without both of them] would be a little too much.”

Even if Stomski and Ashbaugh are both able to start the tournament, they would likely be playing at a reduced level, making the sixth-seeded Badgers’ task of capturing a Big Ten Tournament title that much more difficult.

NCAA Tournament Prospects: In spite of the team’s recent struggles, Albright feels the Badgers still have a viable shot of gaining a berth in the NCAA Tournament, something that seemed like a lock just over a month ago, but still remains to be seen for the 17-10 (8-8 Big Ten) Badgers.

“I looked at the records — I think one win would get us in there,” Albright said. “I looked all over the map last night, and there’s teams that think they’re going to get there with 15 wins. Our RPI is 26. If we win one game, we’re there.”

Nonetheless, the players aren’t banking their postseason fortunes on one game only.

“I haven’t thought about [the NCAAs],” said Moore. “But I do think . . . why even worry about what we need to do, how many wins we need to get, how about not just winning the whole [Big Ten Tournament] . . .? I think that’s the one main thing I think about as far as what we need to do. We need to win the whole thing and give them no reason to not put us in.”

Moore’s teammates agree with her.

“We’re really trying to focus on the task at hand,” added Black. “We’ve never been a good tournament team in any tournament, except for the NITs.

“In order for us to even make it (to the NCAAs), we need to put a show on in the Big Ten. Really, if we get one win and we make it in as a 12th or 13th seed in the NCAAs, that’s not what we’re looking for either. We’ll be happy to make it in, but I think if we can do well in the Big Ten Tournament, we can still get a half-decent seed.”

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