The Badgers (4-8 Big Ten, 8-14 overall) head to Minneapolis this Wednesday to square off against a Minnesota team (7-5, 18-6) sporting the fourth best overall record in the Big Ten. The two teams last played each other in early January, with the Golden Gophers winning 72-60.
Despite suffering their fifth loss in just six games Sunday, the Badgers continued an unprecedented scoring streak. They scored 75 points, marking the fifth straight game in which they've eclipsed 70 points (a mark they'd hit just six times the whole season prior to this stretch). This is the first time under head coach Bobbie Kelsey the Badgers have had such a run of high scoring games.
That streak seems likely to continue against a Minnesota opponent that has given up the third most points of any team in the Big Ten this season, allowing 68.4 points per game. The Gophers have particularly shown some weakness of late, giving up 77.3 points per game over their last six and going just 2-4.
Despite the Badgers’ offensive explosion, they have not managed to turn those points into wins, with just one win in their past five games. The biggest problem for them during this stretch has been poor defense.
Wisconsin began the season giving up just 61.4 points per game, but have allowed opponents to gash them for an average of 80 points since Jan. 18. The Badgers have given up at least 85 points in three of their last six games, including a shocking 89 points against a Nebraska team that has averaged just 67.2 per game for the season.
The Badger defense will look to slow down sophomore center Amanda Zahui, who leads the Golden Gophers in both points (17.7) and rebounds (11.4). She's one of only six players in the Big Ten averaging a double-double, and has only gotten better in conference play, where she's averaging 19.8 points and 12.3 rebounds per game.
To counter Zahui's dominant rebounding, Wisconsin will need a big game from senior forward Cassie Rochel, who leads the team with 9.3 rebounds in Big Ten games. Rochel, who played high school ball just 25 miles south of the Twin Cities, will be returning home for the first time since she posted four points and six rebounds against Minnesota in 2012.
Historically, the Kelsey-era Badgers have struggled against the Golden Gophers. Since she took over in 2011, Wisconsin is just 1-5 against Minnesota with five straight losses. UW has scored 70 points just once in those six games, and will probably have to do it again to win Wednesday.