The Wisconsin women’s basketball team (12-10, 7-3 Big Ten) will try to keep its impressive Big Ten record going Sunday afternoon when the Badgers travel to Assembly Hall to take on Indiana (8-14, 2-8).
After a tough loss to Michigan State, Wisconsin will be looking to get things back on track against an Indiana team that has been struggling lately.
“Indiana is a very athletic team,” UW assistant coach John Barnes said. “They’ve got a couple really good scorers, and a couple really good shooters, so it makes their inside-out attack very good. So, we’re going to have to play a good all-around game, and plus you’re on the road, which makes it a little bit tougher.”
Home court advantage could prove to be a major factor in this game, as Wisconsin has had plenty of trouble winning in Bloomington in the past. Although the Badgers beat the Hoosiers on the road last year, UW has only won three of its 29 games at Assembly Hall.
Despite the Badgers’ weak record against the Hoosiers, Indiana is coming into the game in the middle of a rough stretch, so Wisconsin will certainly be favored to pick up the road win. That said, the Badgers are making sure they take Indiana and the rest of their opponents this year seriously.
“I think we just need to not look over any game, not look over any team, play to the best we can and remember that every team is trying to win,” junior guard Jade Davis said. “And we can’t look over anyone.”
An experienced squad that returns four starters from last year’s squad, the Badgers can’t afford to overlook the Hoosiers if they hope to maintain their strong conference record.
Led by an inside-outside duo in senior forward Hope Elam and senior guard Jori Davis, Indiana has plenty of scoring options. Davis leads the team with more than 18 points and nearly six rebounds per game, while Elam averages 11.2 points per contest.
“We have to really come out strong,” sophomore guard Taylor Wurtz said. “In the past with our other Big Ten games, we’ve sort of been getting slow starts and stuff, but if we just really come out hard and then rely on the defensive end, I think we’ll be in good shape.”
The Hoosiers are not an especially high-scoring team, as they average 62.9 points per game, but they still present a significant challenge for UW. The Badgers are currently ranked third in the Big Ten in scoring defense and will have to slow down Davis and Elam to keep up their average.
Turnovers will be another aspect of the game to watch for Sunday, as the Hoosiers average an impressive 10.2 steals per contest. The Badgers struggled with turnovers earlier in the year but have taken much better care of the ball lately, and this could be a true test of how much they have improved.
“I just feel like taking care of the ball, boxing out and just getting back on transition [defense] are going to be the big keys,” Davis said.
An undersized and athletic team, Indiana will also create plenty of matchup problems for Wisconsin. Instead of just defending the inside, post players such as seniors Tara Steinbauer and Lin Zastrow will be forced to guard on the perimeter.
However, the coaches feel that Michigan State could offer some valuable experience in defending a perimeter-oriented team like Indiana.
“I think Michigan State, really, is a great game going into Indiana, because they kind of create that little bit of a matchup problem [on the perimeter],” Barnes said. So, that will be really good for us, having them before we have to go Indiana.
As UW begins the final stretch of the season, coaches and players alike realize they will need to keep winning if they want to fulfill their preseason goals.
“One of our goals is to win a Big Ten Championship, and if we just keep focusing and taking one day at a time and one practice at a time, I think it’s very attainable,” Wurtz said.