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Saturday, March 02, 2024
michael mersch

Senior Michael Mersch leads the Badgers into their second-ever meeting against Penn State this weekend after a two-week break.

Press Conference: Badger athletics prepare for upcoming playoffs

Men’s Basketball

Two regular season games remain for the Badgers (11-5 Big Ten, 24-5 overall), who still have a chance to earn a share of the Big Ten regular season championship. The focus now, though, is on the Badgers’ three graduating seniors playing in their final home game Wednesday against Purdue (5-10, 15-14).

“Zach [Bohannon] … practiced hard every day, even though he’s obviously not getting the minutes that everybody wants to get, but that shows you the type of man that he is,” head coach Bo Ryan said.

One of the players to be honored Wednesday night is redshirt junior Evan Anderson, who decided he would not return to the team next year after graduating this spring.

“Everyday he has contributed because of what he’s done in practice,” Ryan said. “He’s helped us get the record that we have right now, and that’s not just saying it to say it.”

The last Badger playing in his final home game will be Ben Brust, the team’s only starting senior.

“He’s known for his 3-point shooting, but he’s done a lot of other good things for us,” Ryan said. “His all-around game has helped put us, each year where we are at the end.”

Men’s Hockey

Wisconsin (10-5-1 Big Ten, 19-9-2 overall) makes its first trip of the season to Penn State (2-13-1, 6-22-2) to play the Nittany Lions Friday and Saturday after a two-week break from game action. The Badgers have not played since sweeping Michigan State Feb. 21-22 at the Kohl Center.

“I thought that we got some rest and had time to recover for some guys that were dinged up,” Eaves said. “I think that we were able to focus on areas that we felt would help us going down the stretch.”

Friday’s game marks the first time the Badgers play at Pegula Ice Arena in University Park, Pa., which has a reputation of being a hostile environment for visiting teams.

“The atmosphere at Penn State is outstanding,” Eaves said. “They’ll pack the place. They’re right on top of you.”

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Women’s Hockey

Wisconsin (21-5-2 WCHA, 27-6-2 overall) advanced to the WCHA Final Face-Off Semifinals after winning a three-game series against Minnesota State at LaBahn Arena last weekend. Head coach Mark Johnson believes his team’s decisive 2-0 victory Sunday displayed toughness the Badgers need as their tournament push continues.

“The players get a real understanding firsthand of what it takes to win a game that your backs are against the wall,” Johnson said. “And the bruises after a victory yesterday don’t hurt as badly as if you lose those games.”

The win sends Wisconsin to Bemidji, Minn. to take on No. 10 North Dakota (14-10-4, 19-11-4). The Badgers split the Jan. 11-12 series against visiting North Dakota, and Johnson anticipates another competitive matchup this weekend.

“It’s fun and it’s enjoyable and it’s competitive,” Johnson said. “The energy that we had to put forth yesterday in our victory, you’re going to have to do the same thing or maybe a little bit more Friday because it’s going to be a very similar environment.”

The winner of Friday afternoon’s game will play for the WCHA Championship Saturday against the winner of the other semifinal game between Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota Friday night.

Women’s Basketball

The Big Ten tournament starts this week in Indianapolis, and the No. 11 seed Badgers (3-13 Big Ten, 10-18 overall) will take on the No. 6 seed Minnesota (8-8, 19-11) Thursday in hopes of keeping their season alive. Wisconsin is on a seven-game skid, but head coach Bobbie Kelsey still remains confident her team can go on a run in the conference tournament.

“I’m hoping the ball will bounce our way at least one or two more times here,” Kelsey said. “You hate for the seniors to go out with that long of a stretch of losing.”

The two regular season matchups with the Gophers did not end well for the Badgers, but Wisconsin put forth a strong defensive effort in both games. Despite its record in conference play, Kelsey believes Wisconsin should be viewed as a tough opponent in the tournament, with more than half its Big Ten losses coming by 10 points or less.

“We’ve been waiting for a while for it to go our way and it hasn’t,” Kelsey said. “I wouldn’t necessarily want to play us if we’re playing the way we’re supposed to be playing.”

Wrestling

The Big Ten Championships come to Madison next weekend, and head coach Barry Davis is excited about the opportunity to host the event.

“I think it’s great that we’re here in the Kohl Center,” Davis said. “I think it’s a really great thing for our young guys. I think it gives us a huge advantage.”

Much of the focus next weekend will be on redshirt freshman Isaac Jordan, who defeated the top two wrestlers in his weight class and is the number one seed at 157 pounds.

“[Jordan] had a great weekend last weekend, beat the No. 1 guy in the country,” Davis said.

Despite his recent success and hosting the Championships at the Kohl Center, Davis acknowledged the team still has work to do in preparation for next weekend.

“Now we’re back to the drawing board again, working on those skills in those situations where we were before,” Davis said.

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