The University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team will try for their first stretch of back-to-back wins since December of 2015 as they take on the University of North Carolina at the Kohl Center Thursday.
The Badgers are coming off of their second win of the season as they return to Madison from the UNLV Rebel Round Up Invitational, going 1-1 with a win over Tennessee State Sunday.
Defending their home court won’t be easy for the Badgers as this Tar Heel squad has shown they’re contenders with a five-win start to the season. Their only loss came against a stacked South Florida team. Wisconsin will have their hands full trying to contain sophomore guard Stephanie Watts.
Watts has been incredible this season so far, particularly beyond the arc. In a game against Charleston Southern last week, the sophomore was almost unconscious, knocking down 10 threes in route to another big Tar Heel win.
Watt’s performance last week has come to be the rule, not the exception as she dominated a season ago and was named ACC Freshman of the Year. The guard has emerged as one of the most dominant on the team week in and week out, adding a cool 21 points and 11 rebounds in their last game against Minnesota.
Unfortunately for the five-loss Badgers, Watts is not the only Tar Heel that can ball. Last game, guard Paris Kea went off for 32 points as well and is poised to continue to dominate as Carolina is looking to cap off a solid non-conference schedule.
The even spread offense of the Tar Heels may not bode well for a Badgers team that relies heavily on their star junior Cayla McMorris. If they want to keep up with the Heel’s fire power, redshirt senior Avyanna Young and freshman Gabby Gregory will need to step up in a big way.
Gregory has been miraculously efficient this season, shooting 50 percent from the field and 57 percent from the three-point line. All signs point to her needing to take more shots, so look for head coach Jonathan Tipis to get her the ball and run the offense through her more often than they have been in their first seven games.
UNC Key to the Game: Continue to spread the wealth on offense.
If the Tar Heels keep firing on all cylinders as they have been, it will take a herculean effort to stop them. Junior guard Jamie Cherry will aim to keep everyone involved after her 12 assist performance last game.
If Cherry can continue to facilitate the offense like she has, the Badgers will need to match them quickly in transition.
Wisconsin Key to the Game: Control the boards
The Badgers have been fairly successful this season on the glass. If Avyanna Young (8.3 rebounds per game) can dominate the paint as she did last game, Wisconsin will have a chance to throw the Heels off of their game. As fantastic as UNC has been, their loss against South Florida was due to a 22 rebound deficit, and if the Badgers can mimic that, they may have a path to an upset.