After a four-game losing streak, the Wisconsin women’s basketball team snapped its recent skid with an 82-71 victory over Ohio State. The win brought the Badgers to three Big Ten wins on the year, tying last season’s conference win total.
Wisconsin (10-11, 3-6 Big Ten) will hope to keep the wins coming when it hosts No.18 Nebraska (15-5, 5-3 Big Ten) Wednesday night in the Kohl Center, where it will look to best last year’s conference win total and tie its total win mark of 11 from the 2012-2013 campaign.
Wisconsin has shot the ball well the past two games, shooting 48.1 percent (26-54) from the field in a 67-71 loss against Michigan State last Thursday and 47.5 percent (29-61) in the victory against Ohio State. They will look to continue their hot shooting and leave their mid-season shooting woes in the past, where they shot under 40 percent for four straight games.
Junior forward Jacki Gulczynski had a monster first half for the Badgers last Sunday, netting 15 points through the first 20 minutes. Taylor Wurtz was held scoreless during the first half but then exploded for 17 in the second.
“When Jacki comes out with such a hot half it really opens things up for everybody else,” Wurtz said. “I’m able to find driving lanes and get wide open looks.”
Wurtz hopes to carry over her scoring capability against Nebraska. She averages 12 points a game but has been struggling recently to fill up the points column.
She attributes her success against Ohio State to head coach Bobbie Kelsey implementing a high ball screen that allowed her to be aggressive and attack the rim.
They were both extremely active on the boards, with Wurtz grabbing 14 boards and Gulczynski pulling down 15. Michala Johnson added 7 rebounds and will look to keep improving her rebounding skills.
A point of emphasis for Johnson will be avoiding the foul trouble that forced her to sit for the final 11 minutes, 20 seconds of the first half against Ohio State.
“I can’t be in foul trouble,” she said.
Defensively, Johnson will have her hands full in the paint with Nebraska forward Jordan Hooper. The 6-foot-2 senior was named to the All-Big Ten team last season and averages a team high 19.7 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per contest. Johnson will have to keep Hooper off the glass as well and limit Nebraska’s second chance opportunities.
“She’s a great player,” Kelsey said. “She’s going to get her points. You can’t let it be 30 points, but you have to make other people try to score.”
Hooper also has an outside dimension to her game, as she connects on close to a third of her attempts from behind the arc (32.8 percent).
“I know she can shoot a little,” Johnson said. “Pretty much take away her favorite moves and what she likes to do [to get her out of her comfort zone].”
Sophomore guard Nicole Bauman has recently taken over the point guard duties, replacing sophomore Dakota Whyte in the starting lineup. Whyte has started the past two games due to Bauman being ill, but Kelsey said the plan is for Bauman to start against Nebraska.
The young guards will have to match up against a former All-Big Ten Freshman, sophomore Rachel Theriot. She averages 12.9 points and 6.1 assists per game. It will be up to Bauman and Whyte to slow her down and take away her passing lanes in order to make it difficult for Theriot to distribute the basketball.
Reflecting on the Ohio State game, Kelsey says her team’s defensive effort was not up to par and hopes to correct that by the time the Cornhuskers arrive.
“We need to work on our transition defense,” Kelsey said. “Our on-ball defense has improved, but there’s still a lot to work on.”
The Badgers anticipate taking down Nebraska, a team they have struggled against the last two seasons. Wisconsin leads the total series record against Nebraska 5-4, but the Cornhuskers have won the last four. Last season, the Badgers were blown out on the road 42-70 and lost a nail biter in Madison 53-55.
When asked about how she felt regarding already matching last year’s conference win total, Kelsey responded “I didn’t even know about that.”
“I wasn’t even thinking about last year,” Kelsey said. “We have about eight or nine games left [sic], and we have to get some more wins, that’s where my focus is.”