Following Sunday’s miraculous two-point victory against Purdue, Marisa Moseley’s University of Wisconsin Badgers (7-17, 4-10 Big Ten) tip-off against Suzy Merchant and the Michigan State Spartans (13-11, 7-6 Big Ten) for the first time this season in Madison Feb. 16.
The two last met March 6 of last season, a good day for the Spartans, who won with three double-digit scorers and a stout second quarter display, defeating the Badgers 67-54. With a 4-17 mark since 2002 and a 1-9 record over their last ten matches against MSU, UW aims to reverse its track record against their Big Ten foe with another balanced offensive attack.
Orchestrated by Suzy Merchant, the anchor of ten Spartan groups to reach the NCAA National Tournament, Michigan State averages 72.3 points, adds 37.2 rebounds and distributes over 17 assists per outing. MSU also ranks 18th out of the 348 qualified programs in Division I competition with a 36.69% clip from 3-point range, so UW will need to rotate quickly on the perimeter to avoid leaving shooters uncontested from deep.
UW has improved as of late, with 57.1 points per contest, 39.1% shooting from the floor and just 30.6% from outside. The Badgers will need to see improvement inside in this one as well, as they average just 30 rebounds per bout — the fifth-worst clip in the country.
Michigan State boasts a +3.5 rebounding margin per game, so if UW forwards Halle Douglass, Brooke Schramek and Julie Pospíšilová can manage to bridge the gap and box out down low, UW could cash in on a few extra offensive opportunities.
Following a 15-point, four-rebound performance against Purdue on Sunday, Pospíšilová continued her strong season, averaging 14 points, 4.1 boards and three assists in 36 minutes each time she laces up. Point guard Katie Nelson, who still holds the top spot in total minutes played in the nation, leads UW with 84 dimes and 40 steals on the season. Alongside Nelson and Pospíšilová, Schramek accounts for 70 points and 28 rebounds over her last five appearances.
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Senior Nia Clouden, a member of the 2020-2021 All-Big Ten First Team, is a high volume scorer and contributes in other ways with about four assists and rebounds. Clouden ranks 19th out of 157 qualified student-athletes in 3-point percentage at 42.7%, so Nelson and Pospíšilová will need to get pressure as soon as she crosses half-court.
Responsible for the 26th most assists in the nation, freshman guard DeeDee Hagemann averages 7.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 5.7 assists. Off the bench, junior Taiyier Parks leads the Spartans with 22 blocks, 145 rebounds and is a strong presence down low.
Last Sunday, 2,869 members of UW faithful piled into the Kohl Center to witness the largest comeback in program history. If the Badgers can feed off that momentum, box out and move quickly on the defensive end, Wisconsin can secure its fifth Big Ten victory with less than two weeks remaining before the conference tournament.