After an underwhelming performance Sunday versus Mike Lane’s NJIT Highlanders, Marisa Moseley’s Badgers (1-1) look to regain momentum when they tip off in Peoria against Bradley (2-0) for the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s first battle away from home Nov. 19.

Head Coach Andrea Gorski and her Braves, members of the Missouri Valley Conference, secured their first NCAA Tournament bid in program history after recording a 17-12 overall record in 2020-2021, going 10-8 in conference play.

Gorski returned to her alma mater to become the ninth head coach in program history in 2016, and over the last four seasons, she has led Bradley to 72 wins, including back-to-back 20-win campaigns in 2019 and 2020.

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With five departures, including leading-scorer Lasha Petree, a member of the preseason Naismith Award Watch List, one would expect a decline in the Braves’ offensive prowess. Bradley’s scoring margin, however, has increased from +5.4 in 2020-2021 to +24.5 over two games this season.

Thus far, the Braves trounced Upper Iowa 83-53 Nov. 15 and blew out Wright State 84-65 Nov. 9, executing on 43.8% of three-pointers and shooting an impressive 52.5% from the field. Gorski’s squad shares the rock as well, accounting for 21.5 assists and an average of 83.5 points each time out on the hardwood.

Tied for first place in the MVC, the Braves look to ride their momentum into Friday’s matchup against a Big Ten opponent hungry for redemption.

For the Badgers, Julie Pospíšilová returns after her two-game stint overseas for the Czech Republic national team. The multifaceted scorer showcased her capabilities in an exhibition match against UW-Oshkosh a few weeks ago (Oct 31), scoring a team-high 15 points, including a 2:17 stretch in the third quarter where she hit three consecutive shots from behind-the-arc.

After finishing with only 49 tallies and a dismal 33.9% from the field on Sunday, the addition of Pospíšilová will help UW-Madison increase its sub-par 58 point-per-game scoring output.

Through two contests, Sydney Hilliard leads the red and white with 17.5 points per game off 50% shooting, while guard Katie Nelson averages five assists and 3.5 steals per bout for Moseley’s group.

Sara Stapleton scored 16 and grabbed six boards on 60% efficiency versus the Highlanders, but to pull away, Wisconsin will require a bounce back effort from both Krystyna Ellew and Alex Luehring. Simply put, the pair combined to shoot 0-14 from the field and 0-7 from three against NJIT.

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Wisconsin must avoid unforced errors, increase defensive intensity and snatch 50-50 balls on Friday. UW-Madison is 3-0 all-time versus Bradley, with the last win coming in December of 1986.

Bradley names to monitor

Freshman guard Caroline Waite, who holds the all-time scoring record for Ames High School in Ames, Iowa, currently leads the Braves in virtually every statistical category. Her staggering 23.5 points per contest, 62.1% from the field and 32 minutes per game rank first among her teammates. Not to mention, Waite’s 29 shot attempts exceed any other Bradley student-athlete by 15, and her recognition as the Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week certainly reflects her recent success.

As a 5’4’’ guard, the standout has contributed to a 12.8 boost in team scoring margin thus far, and her offensive skill set fits perfectly into the Braves’ system after the departure of Petree, Gorski’s leading scorer a season ago. Nelson and Hilliard will need to pressure Waite on the perimeter as well. Her efficient 50% clip from behind-the-arc adds another tier to her scoring ability.

Fifth-year guard and team anchor Gabi Haack, who leads Bradley in three-point percentage (54.5%), represented the Braves on a national stage during her historical 2020-2021 senior campaign. The former Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year in high school sank a conference-high 77 threes last year, ranking 11th in the country.

Haack earned NCAA Woman of the Year nods and was one of 30 athletes to receive nomination for the Senior CLASS honor, which is awarded to the most outstanding senior student-athlete in NCAA Division I sports. As the second fiddle to Petree during her fourth year in Peoria, Haack and Waite look to dominate on the offensive end as one of the premier tandems in the Missouri Valley Conference this season.