Head coach Jonathan Tsipis and his Badger squad lost last Tuesday night in a game in which it seemed neither team wanted to win. The Badgers scrapped their way to a meager 35 points in 40 minutes.
“I thought we set basketball back today ... on both ends,” said Tsipis after the game.
Thursday, however, showcased an exhibit of tactical play that even Dr. Naismith would be proud of.
Tsipis’ Badgers (4-7) set the tone for their night with a 30-point first quarter, taking them 10 minutes to score what took 40 minutes Tuesday. Wisconsin ran into the locker room at halftime with a 53-24 lead, and the game wasn’t even as close as that score suggests.
With a 103-65 win against the Mississippi Valley State Devilettes (2-5), Wisconsin played the type of complete game that has eluded them all season. When the offense has been clicking, the defense lacked. When the defense locked up their opponent, the offense faltered. Thursday night’s trouncing showed both units working in harmony, feeding into each other to earn the Badgers their fourth win of the season.
Freshman guard Suzanne Gilreath stepped up off the bench for a season-high 21 points on on 8-of-10 shooting, including a 5-of-6 performance from three. After no three-pointers in her first seven games, the guard has shot herself out of the slump, hitting 12 threes in her last four games,
“The part that I really like about our team is that they try to find her no matter what we’re running,” said Tsipis
Added Gilreath: “I just go with the flow. Whenever my teammates gives it to me I’m ready to shoot, without them I wouldn't be able to do this.”
Freshman guard Kendra Van Leeuwen had a coming out party at the expense of Mississippi Valley State, with seven points and 10 assists. While the passing ability for the freshman has been apparent all the season, it has been her teammates who have not been able to finish off the scoring chances. The Badgers flipped that script Thursday, as she found her teammates via pin-point transition passes that were converted and drive-and-dish chances that resulted in multiple corner threes.
“It’s really awesome to be able to take away from the game how many assists we had, even as a team,” said Van Leeuwen. “With girls running the floor and attacking, looking to score, because all the hustle that we do on defense and it really pays off on the offense when we really run the floor well.”
Van Leeuwen, a native of Brantford, Ontario, pronounced the word offense by elongating the ‘O,’ prompting a friendly jab from her coach.
“There’s our Canadian, right there, it finally come out in her,” Tsipis said jokingly.
Nonetheless, while the two freshman players were all over the floor, it was who was absent from the floor that became the story.
Redshirt senior forward Avyanna Young was missing during the Badgers warm-ups and by the time the ball was tipped, a chair usually filled sat empty.
“Avy has a violation of team rules and is suspended indefinitely,” said Tsipis. “[She] did not practice yesterday. We will move forward, and as that situation changes, we will make sure and let everyone know. But I think today that our ... 13 in uniform … [were] moving forward to try and make sure that we were able to work together as a team.”
Young directed a pair of tweets at redshirt sophomore guard Roichelle Marble that were sent out before Tuesday’s game.
The first read, "It's crazy how you consider someone a friend and she betrays you then unfollows you on all social media."
The second was more direct, stating, "Roichelle Marble karma is real my friend."
Marble, in a night where redshirt senior guard Taylor Kuhn made her first career start, could have earned her first start of the season as Tsipis adjusted his lineup, but instead sat the entirety of the game.
“We talked about the energy that we came out of that practice with, those people would start. And I think we just needed that type of uplifting,” said Tsipis. “Taylor Kuhn is somebody who leads us in our energy rating, or is in the the top two or three almost every single day. And that was a decision we made, we felt like that is apart of our culture and our chemistry, win or lose.”
With a potential rift in the team that could emerge through intra-squad confrontation, Tsipis has made a concerted effort to focus on the chemistry of his team and reward those who foster a positive community conducive to team improvement.
That chemistry building will continue off the floor, as the entire team, minus two players who have class, will watch the NCAA Volleyball tournament together Friday at 1 p.m. in the UW Field House.