With Tuesday's victory over visiting University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Wisconsin women's basketball team has a two-game win streak going as they look ahead to Saturday's matchup against Air Force in the third game of a five-game homestand at the friendly confines of the Kohl Center.
Although the Badgers won their last two games by comfortable margins, both were close throughout the first half. The Badgers closed out both first halves with big offensive runs, which allowed them to regain control and momentum before the break, before ultimately crushing the opposition in the second half.
Turnovers and missed field goals contributed greatly to Wisconsin’s problems, but thus far the Badgers have managed to find the basket and cut their turnovers in half in the second period.
"It is just a matter of trying to get a feel for the game," UW sophomore Rae Lin D'Alie said. "It's definitely something we need to work on, and we've been talking all year about putting two halves together."
Head coach Lisa Stone plans to use the remaining nonconference games to solidify her team's intangibles.
"Confidence, momentum, continued chemistry, reducing turnovers, commitment to the boards, defense and stepping it up a notch are all things I [look for]," Stone said. "We traveled all November, and now it is time for us to be home for a bit where I'm sure we will do very, very well."
Against UWM, UW senior Jolene Anderson had one of the lowest scoring outputs of her career, scoring 11 points, with only three coming in the first half. Fellow seniors Janese Banks and Danielle Ward each scored season highs with 23 and 10 points, respectively. The importance of the senior presence on a team with twice as many underclassmen as upperclassmen doesn’t escape Stone.
"You can't think anything but positive about [the seniors'] efforts, their want, and their will; they know their careers are winding down just a bit," the head coach said. "I don't know that they're feeling pressure, but I think that the expectation sometimes makes it hurried."
The bulk of the scoring and offensive output has stemmed from the more experienced seniors, but each game has had a different star, ranging from freshman to senior.
"I think that is huge, I think that [depth] is our strength compared to last year," D'Alie said. "When teams come in to play us, they will realize they have to stop more than just one person."
Visiting from Colorado, the Falcons will enter Saturday's game looking to improve their .500 nonconference record.
Falcon senior forward Alecia Steele averages just more than 16 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, leading the team. Averaging three players in double figures each game, the balanced Air Force attack brings more than what shows up on the court. Attending college at the Air Force Academy, the off-the-court life of the players contributes to their play during the game.
Reminiscing to last year's matchup against Air Force, when Wisconsin won 91-58, D'Alie remembers how disciplined Air Force played.
"[Air Force] works hard, and they are in the Air Force Academy so they are very disciplined," D'Alie said. "The thing that's dangerous about them is they'll come out and work hard for 40 minutes, and if we don't put two halves together that's where we'll get in trouble."
D'Alie and the Badgers' focus this year has been trying to play the entire game, and not having to resort to late runs and spurts. With three nonconference games left before the first conference game, Wisconsin will get a shot to do so in the Kohl Center.