[media-credit name=’AJ Maclean’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′][/media-credit]The Wisconsin women’s basketball team opens up its regular season schedule this Friday when they host a 7 p.m. game against the Jaguars of IUPUI at the Kohl Center.
Expectations are much higher for the team in head coach Lisa Stone’s second season at the helm. The Badgers brought in a stellar group of freshman to join their established leadership and will attempt to live up to expectations this weekend when they face the Jaguars. The game will be a showcase of two revamped squads, as the new fast-paced offense of the Badgers goes against the new all-out pressure defense of IUPUI.
“We’ll see pressure, full and half-court pressure, and they’ll just be trying to make us play ugly. So our ability to take care of the ball, pick things apart, to get easy shots and to not pressure our offense will be important for us,” Wisconsin head coach Lisa Stone said. “Pressuring teams want you to take quick shots, and it’ll be a good test for us.”
New IUPUI head coach Shann Hart took over the program prior to this season with an emphasis on defense, a trait she emphasized at her former coaching stop, American University. During its only exhibition game of the year, IUPUI pressed full-court for most of its game against St. Francis. The full-court press is something coach Stone hopes to use against the Jaguars.
“Hopefully we can catch them on their heels,” Stone said. “If we can control the glass and get out into transition, it’s very hard to pressure because you’re in defensive transition … our game plan is to try and control tempo on both ends and force them into a half court game and make them play 94 feet of defense.”
Defense will also be key for the Badgers, as they face preseason first team all-MCC forward Kia Hayes. Hayes led the team in both points and steals last season and opened up this season by dropping 22 points and snatching six steals against St. Francis.
“She’s a great player, very good athlete, can shoot the three, can get people off the dribble and she’s long and lanky. By far their best athlete,” Stone said. “But keying on one player is not the way we really look at things; it’s more that we need to be conscious of where she’s at.”
The matchup also pits a pair of former teammates against each other, as Hayes will face current Badger freshman guard Janese Banks. Banks and Hayes were teammates on several Indiana all-star teams while Banks was in high school. Banks, who has been sidelined with an injury thus far this season, says she’s ready to see the floor for her first action of the season.
“Janese tells me she can play,” Stone said. “It’s exciting to have her back on the court and rekindle a friendship with a former player.”
Offensively, the Badgers will be relying on the low post scoring of junior Jordan Wilson and the outside shooting of guards Stephanie Rich, Jolene Anderson and Ashley Josephson. Wilson looked solid in both exhibition games this season with an average of 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in the contests. Freshman Jolene Anderson has also shown an ability to score at the collegiate level, establishing herself as one of the Badgers’ go-to scorers during the preseason. Anderson averaged 17.5 points, while bringing down 10 boards a game.
Despite the scoring punches of these two players, along with Rich and Josephson in the backcourt, coach Stone says that no starting spot is guaranteed to anyone. In fact, Stone says she will be putting more of an emphasis on defensive play, rotating in her scorers as needed.
“I think we’ll settle into a lineup here pretty soon,” Stone said. “I told our team if you play defense and you rebound you’re going to be on the court.”
“Realistically, we’re probably going to rotate nine players consistently,” she continued. “I would like to get it to 10, maybe 11. But right now they are all battling, there is no set position and that makes practice competitive, encouraging and fun for everybody.”