The UW women’s basketball team completed its sweep of preseason exhibition games with an 84-58 win over Wisconsin AAU Select Nov. 11.
“I was really impressed,” AAU head coach Dave Johnson said. “Compared to a year ago how [Wisconsin] looked when we played them and where they’re at today, it’s just light years.”
The Badgers dominated inside, out-rebounding the Vikings 65-37 and posting a 50-20 advantage in points in the paint. Led by 6-foot-7 senior center Lello Gebisa, who pulled down 13 boards, three Badgers finished with double figures in rebounds.
“When you have that kind of height advantage, when you have that kind of skill and ability, we have got to be able to use that,” head coach Lisa Stone said. “We went inside and got some good looks.”
Wisconsin demonstrated a balanced attack, as two players recorded double figures in points and rebounds. Senior enter Emily Ashbaugh recorded 18 points and 11 rebounds on 7-9 shooting, and junior point guard Stephanie Rich posted 17 points and 12 rebounds and shot 3-7 from three-point range. Gebisa finished one basket shy of a double-double with 8 points and 13 rebounds.
“I told both Lello [Gebisa] and Emily [Ashbaugh] I was looking for a double-double, and we got one out of Steph [Rich] and Emily [Ashbaugh], which is outstanding,” Stone said.
Behind impressive play from Ashbaugh, who led the Badgers with 16 points and seven rebounds in the first half, Wisconsin took a 40-27 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Badgers came out firing, opening the half on a 12-3 run to take a commanding 52-30 lead with 16:22 remaining in the game. The Badgers never looked back, leading by as many as 32 points in the blowout victory.
The Badgers strong performance drew praise from women’s basketball legend and ESPN commentator Nancy Lieberman, who recently joined the AAU Vikings squad.
“I have the privilege of seeing a lot of teams from a lot of different conferences, and Wisconsin is a great place to play basketball,” Lieberman said. “[Wisconsin] is going to be a very good basketball team. I like what they do.”
Lieberman, a 45-year-old forward, played a game-high 35 minutes, recording 10 points and eight rebounds on 3-19 shooting.
“It shows first and foremost that I love this game,” Lieberman said. “I’m 45. I’ve got a nine-year old little boy TJ, who every day thinks he’s going to beat me and my goal is not to let that happen until he’s 17 or 18.”
Lieberman, who will cover this season’s Big Ten women’s basketball tournament for ESPN, is a former WNBA player and coach. At age 17, Lieberman became the youngest women’s basketball player to win an Olympic medal as a member of the 1976 USA Olympic team.
In 1986, Lieberman became the first woman to play in a men’s professional basketball league, and she went on to play against the Harlem Globetrotters as a member of the Washington Generals in 1988. In 1996, Lieberman was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
“You’ve got a former Olympian, only woman ever drafted by an NBA team, she played with the Globetrotters, the list goes on and on,” Johnson said. “It’s absolutely phenomenal to have Nancy Lieberman show up here and play with our unit.”
With convincing victories in both preseason exhibition games, the Badgers have generated momentum heading into their season opener against Northern Illinois Nov. 23.
“I’ve got a group of women here that are ready to work,” Stone said. “They are responding to whatever I address. They are students of the game. They want to learn, they want to get better, they want to win.”