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Sophomore guard Taylor Wurtz and the rest of the Badgers have stepped up early in the season to help UW get off to a fast start. Wurtz has 22 points, has pulled down 9 boards and has hit 4 threes so far.[/media-credit]

After a 65-38 rout of William & Mary, the Wisconsin women’s basketball team is off to an impressive 2-0 start.

Women’s basketball head coach Lisa Stone was pleased with her team’s win, and thought the team gained some experience on the defensive end that will be valuable later in the season.

“They ran a lot of great offensive sets that we had to defend, that we’ll see again,” Stone said. “They threw some different kinds of zone defenses and half-court pressure against us. And when I look back at the film, and I watch it, it really is a great game that we’re going to benefit from later on.”

Stone also talked about the injuries the team has had to deal with, as senior guard Alyssa Karel, the scoring and assist leader from last year, went down with an injury in the team’s first exhibition game against Winona State. Stone mentioned that Karel’s condition is definitely improving, but that the star point guard is still considered day-to-day.

Despite the costly injury, other seniors including forward Tara Steinbauer and forward Lin Zastrow have done a great job stepping up during the absence of one of the team’s best players. Steinbauer has put up two double-doubles in the first two games and led the team with 22 points and 12 rebounds against William & Mary.

“I’m really pleased with our players’ ability to step in,” Stone said. “When someone’s injured, next player in has really done a nice job, and that experience, hopefully, will be something that will really help them later on, particularly in the Big Ten season.”

Younger players have also done a great job stepping up in Karel’s absence and have given some players a chance to shine. One of those players is sophomore guard Taylor Wurtz, who has had a great start to what should be her breakout season.

Stone has also been impressed with the maturity of Morgan Paige, a true freshman who was expected to play more of a backup role this season and has helped fill in for Karel.

“[Paige’s] growth from day to day is amazing,” Stone said. “She’s an analytical player that really has taken the defensive end very seriously. She knocks down shots, and what I’m most impressed with is she makes her free throws.”

Following a strong early season start, Stone is excited about a matchup on the road with in-state rival UW-Green Bay. An experienced team that advanced to the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, the Badger’s game against the Phoenix looks to be their most challenging test of the year so far.

UW-Green Bay is also carrying a lot of momentum going into their game against Wisconsin, having just pulled off an upset over Minnesota on the road.

“The bottom line is no matter what state they’re from, they’re a really good basketball team,” Stone said. “They play hard, defensively will try to turn you over, and we have to be sharp. We have to play very, very hard, keep building off what we’ve been learning, continue to do what we do well, and, you know, we’ll be ready by Thursday.”

Stone also discussed the Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge that the Badgers will take part in for the first time when they play Kansas Sunday and later in the season when they travel to Oklahoma State.

Participating in the Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge is part of what makes for such a challenging non-conference schedule for the Wisconsin women’s basketball team. But Stone also sees this as an opportunity for the Big Ten to strengthen its reputation in the college women’s basketball world.

“The Big 12 is one of the best conferences out there, and it’s great for the Big Ten,” Stone said. “We want [Big Ten] teams to do well. And now we’re stretching into a powerful Big 12 conference and looking forward to it.”