After an impressive 8-3 start, the Wisconsin women’s basketball team (9-9, 1-6 Big Ten) has struggled to continue their success in conference play as the season progressed. The Badgers lost four consecutive games in a 10-day stretch but look to come back strong Wednesday against their archrival Minnesota.
The most recent of Wisconsin’s heartbreaking losses came Sunday at home to No. 19 Iowa. After the Badgers led by 15 at halftime, the Hawkeyes roared back. They managed to outscore Wisconsin by 22 in the second half en route to a seven-point victory.
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Crucial to this second half slide was the Hawkeyes’ ability to dominate Wisconsin in both rebounds as well as turnover points in the second half. Though the Badgers managed to score more points than they had in their last seven games, it wasn’t enough to stall the Hawkeye offense Wisconsin turnovers helped fuel.
In the loss, sophomore star Imani Lewis continued her stellar play, scoring 18 points on seven of 14 shooting. Lewis leads the Badgers in total scoring as well with an average 14.7 points per game. Lewis’ scoring will be paramount for Wisconsin to escape with a win at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
Currently, Minnesota finds itself on the bubble of most NCAA tournament projections. After a red-hot 11-1 start, including a win against No. 16 Arizona State, the Gophers (12-6, 2-5) have struggled to find their groove in conference play, losing five of their last six games.
As of right now, the Gophers are a projected 11-seed according to ESPN bracketologist, Charlie Creme. But there is still quite a bit of the season left to play. If the Gophers do not improve their conference play and continue on their current path, their tournament standing could continue to drop.
Minnesota Head Coach Lindsay Whalen has been forced to make recent lineup adjustments this season. January 16th, leading scorer Destiny Pitts announced her intentions to transfer after being suspended for “body language issues.” Before transferring, Pitts was averaging a team-high 16.3 points per game.
For Minnesota, a player to watch in Wednesday’s matchup will be freshman guard Sara Scalia. In Pitts’ absence, Scalia has shouldered the load with an average of 17.3 points scored per game over her last three games. Whalen also delegated Scalia a sharp increase in playing time, playing her all but three minutes in those games.
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Wisconsin will look to end their struggles against the Gophers. Over the past eight years, Minnesota has owned the border battle rivalry as they successfully secured 13 consecutive games against the Badgers in their last victory on Jan. 17, 2019. Wisconsin’s last win against the Gophers came in a 78-72 shootout during the 2011-12 season.
After Wednesday’s game, Wisconsin travels back to Madison for a home matchup Saturday against Nebraska.