[media-credit name=’AJ MACLEAN/Herald photo’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′][/media-credit]The Wisconsin women’s basketball team (11-14, 5-10 Big Ten) will look to finish off its regular season on a high note when it travels to West Lafayette, Ind. Sunday afternoon to take on Purdue (15-10, 8-6 Big Ten). Ebba Gebisa, a West Lafayette, Ind. native was one of three Badger seniors honored in Wisconsin’s 70-63 win over Northwestern, and she will also celebrate her final homecoming at Mackey Arena.
“Our Purdue game was our opener in the Big Ten. Now we finish there, ironically, in Ebba Gebisa’s hometown, so hopefully that’ll give us a little bit more incentive as well,” said UW head coach Lisa Stone.
For Gebisa and her teammates to pull off the upset win, the Badgers will have to shoot better than they did in the teams’ first matchup. Last time the Badgers played the Boilermakers back in December it was a tale of two halves as Wisconsin shot 50 percent from the field in the first half and raced to 38-32 halftime lead.
But Wisconsin’s shooting woes began to show early in the second half as Purdue grabbed the lead, thwarting a late Badger run, as Wisconsin fell short by five points 72-67. The Badgers hit just 25 percent of their field goal attempts in the second stanza.
But while Stone’s squad has struggled at the Kohl Center against Purdue, it has been next to impossible for any Wisconsin women’s basketball team to win in West Lafayette. Wisconsin has dropped 17 straight in Mackey Arena and hasn’t won there since March of 1984.
The Badgers will need a strong defensive effort to pull off the upset in West Lafayette, though Wisconsin posted an upset victory earlier in the year, defeating the No.25- ranked Iowa Hawkeyes just three weeks ago.
“I think our team rebounded well, you go through the toughest part of our schedule and it can drain you, it can take the energy and suck it right out of you,” Stone said. “I think our efforts on defense have to improve and our team knows it. That’s what we are pushing for and hopefully that’s what well see.”
While Purdue’s record may be uncharacteristic of past seasons, the Boilermakers have still managed an 8-3 record on their home court this season. Purdue has also played one of the toughest schedules in the country, with all but one of their losses coming to ranked opponents.
Still, the Boilermakers are one of the Big Ten teams sitting on the bubble and are in danger of missing their first NCAA Tournament since 1993. To help their cause, Purdue would like nothing more than to close out its senior day with a win over the Badgers, giving them some much needed momentum in their contention for a third straight Big Ten Tournament championship
Purdue currently stands alone at fifth place in the conference, and have all but secured a first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament. After losing four senior starters, the Boilermakers have been up and down all season. Head coach Kristy Curry’s squad has already lost to Minnesota, Houston, and Illinois at Mackey Arena, but also rebounded against a pair of top-ranked teams in Iowa and Penn State.
Sophomore forwards Erin Lawless and Katie Gearlds have been the most consistent players for the Boilermakers all season. They are the only two Purdue players averaging double figures offensively, averaging 14.3 and 13.5 points per game, respectively.
Lawless was unstoppable against the Badgers in the first meeting, amassing a career-high 29 points. Gearlds only shot 3-for-13 from the field, but converted 12-of-14 attempts from the free throw line for 20 points. Gearlds, voted Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season by the coaches, also connected on school season-record 45.7 percent of her 3-point attempts last season. This season the sophomore has struggled from behind the arc, shooting at a 32 percent clip, though she still leads Purdue in 3-point field goals made.
Freshman forward Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton has provided a spark for the Boilermakers in her freshman campaign. Wisdom-Hylton contributes 8.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game and is third in the conference in blocks with 2.08 per game. As a team, Purdue leads the Big Ten in blocks with more than 6.2 swats per game. Center Emily Heikes is Purdue’s only senior on the team and averages a team-best 6.4 rebounds per game.
“If we can pick up another win this week, we’ll forget all about what happened in the last couple of games,” Stone said.