Throughout the season, the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team (5-17, 2-17 Big Ten) has been wildly inconsistent. When everything clicks, the Badgers can compete with anyone in the Big Ten. The problem is — this rarely happens.
Against the Iowa Hawkeyes (14-7, 10-7), they won the rebounding battle and only had eight turnovers, but unkind rims prevented Wisconsin from capitalizing on those strong fundamentals. In a season where the Badgers have been hurt by turnover problems on numerous occasions, not being rewarded for playing smart basketball cuts extra deep, adding more questions for Head Coach Jonathan Tsipis.
Another familiar theme continued. The three stars — Sydney Hilliard, Imani Lewis and Julie Pospíšilovà — seemed to rarely play dominant basketball at the same time. When Hilliard was dominating early in the season, neither Pospíšilovà nor Lewis had found their footing yet. During Lewis’ monster 10-game stretch, Hilliard only hit the 20-point mark one time and Pospíšilovà often found herself in a turnover spree.
Today, Pospíšilovà was unstoppable. Crafty in her decision-making with the jump shot looking pure, she kept the Badgers in the game by herself for stretches of time. She finished with 21 points on 64% from the field and was clearly the most dangerous Badger on the court as her running mate Hilliard is still recovering from injury.
“I knew that I would need to step up,” said Pospíšilovà. “But my mentality is always the same, try to attack, try to find my teammates and set them up and so my mentality didn’t really change in this game.”
“I have full faith in my PG,” Lewis said in response to her teammates’ great two-way performance, holding Hawkeye standout Caitlin Clark to 18 points on 4-for-13 shooting.
While Lewis got going late, she largely struggled to dominate the paint the way Badger fans have come to expect. Hilliard tweaked her ankle against Indiana and at times was missing the lift necessary to get clean looks and finish in transition. Both factors were missed dearly in the 84-70 loss, but if this season has taught Badger fans anything, it’s that this kind of game is an outlier for the duo and not the mean.
The good news is that though it may be late in the season, the Badgers have grown from their trials and tribulations. No, not all the stars showed out in Wisconsin’s final home game of the season, but playing tough basketball on the inside while staying disciplined offensively exponentially raises the ceiling of this team. But the team’s complementary players will have to step up if the Badgers are to turn some heads down the stretch.
“All three of [Lewis, Pospíšilovà and Hilliard] get a lot of attention,” Tsipis said. “Some of the ways to get that third scorer to be more consistent is having other people be able to knock shots down as well around them. That makes teams have to play all five as opposed to pinching things in and having extra bodies on Imani, on Syd’s drives and be closer to be able to close out on Julie.”
For the regular season finale, the Badgers travel to East Lansing for a showdown with the Michigan State University Spartans this weekend, March 6.