In the win-loss column, there’s no such thing as a moral victory.

The University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team( 3-9, 0-9 Big Ten) currently sits at rock bottom in the Big Ten standings. But after a series of tough results against ranked opponents, a 79–70 loss against No. 9 University of Maryland (11-1, 7-0) may inspire a turnaround in the second half of the season.

“[This game’s] got to give us confidence,” Head Coach Jonathan Tsipis said in a postgame press conference. “Obviously it’s not just the beginning of the game, it’s not for a half, to continue to do that even when it got to 10 or 12 [points] at the end of the third quarter, to come back and outscore them in the fourth quarter, I’m just proud of [this team]. It’s got to give them confidence just knowing — obviously this league is filled with very good teams — to be able to do that for 40 minutes each night. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, having that competitive mindset.”

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The past six games have been a disappointing and emotionally taxing string of losses. Five of these contests have come against top-20 opponents, the most difficult stretch of the season. The learning curve has been steep for this young team, but they head into the second half of the season with a growth mindset, ready to take all they’ve learned in this trial by fire and apply it.

“The one message I had for [our team] is that we can do it,”  junior forward and team leader Imani Lewis said. “We showed that we can compete with anyone, we showed the effort, we played with heart, we did not give up. Now that we’ve shown ourselves that we can do it, now we can put the foot to the pedal and produce that next game.”

Despite the loss, there are several indicators the Badgers are maturing just in time to turn their season around. Against ranked opponents, Wisconsin has averaged 17.8 turnovers per game. This time around, Wisconsin confidently broke Maryland’s press and moved the ball effectively in their half-court sets.

The game also marked only the fourth time all season that Sydney Hilliard, Lewis and Julie Pospíšilovà all reached double-figure scoring marks. When those three are all playing confident, aggressive basketball, there isn’t a team in the conference the Badger’s can’t compete with.

“I wasn’t really proud of how I played [against Michigan],” Hilliard said. “I looked to be aggressive, be the same ole player I go back to and be aggressive and feed my teammates. The first half we stepped on the pedal and we were looking to be aggressive. When [Lewis] is getting it going we follow her lead.”

Setting the tone early is expected of the team’s junior leader. Games have been won with her tenacity alone (December 20th vs. Valparaiso). And Hilliard’s tenacious attacks at the rim have become the norm in her breakout sophomore campaign. These two have been the foundation upon which the Badgers have built most of their season.

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But in order to take the next step and become a consistently threatening team in the Big Ten, it’s Pospíšilovà who needs to be the catalyst. Pospíšilovà is an offensive maestro who calmly and decisively conducts half-court sets and is a pest defensively. Pospíšilovà shined and finished with 18 points and five assists on 7-for-11 shooting.

“As a sophomore playing the first extended minutes of her career, that balance, I think naturally Julie is someone that would rather set her teammates up,” Tsipis said. “But we need to have another scorer for us to be successful.”

Hilliard echoed and said, “I was really proud of how Julie looked to be aggressive. When Julie’s aggressive our offense flows a lot better and I thought our energy and effort in the first half carried into the second half.”

Next up is a road matchup against Purdue, who stands at 5-6 this season with an even 4-4 record in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers find themselves in a conference slide of their own, dropping their last three. Now is the time for the Badgers to take all of the hardship and experience of the past six games and put it into action in what hopes to be another competitive game for Wisconsin.