After closing the season by splitting a pair of games last week, head coach Jonathan Tsipis saw the Badger’s progression as an important accomplishment heading into the Big Ten Tournament. Last week, they finished Wednesday’s game with a close victory against Illinois and ended the season with a tough loss against Iowa Sunday.
Coach Tsipis was proud of the team's group effort during Sunday’s game; especially when senior forward Kendall Shaw replaced junior forward Malaya Johnson after suffering an injury with only one minute of action played in the first half.
“We put ourselves in a competitive environment...whether it’s home or on the road, we put ourselves in a position to win the game,” Tsipis said.
Senior forward Avyanna Young had a rewarding end to the season; scoring her 1,000th career point against Illinois and having a perfect 8-of-8 night from the free-throw line at Iowa.
Tsipis is excited to hopefully advance in the Big Ten tournament, something nobody in the locker room has done.
“It may seem like a low bar to set but it’s something,” Tsipis said. “There is no question in my mind who we feel is playing the best, to give not only our seniors a chance at another game but an opportunity for us to improve as a team, as a whole.”
As the Badgers travel to Indianapolis Wednesday to open tournament play against Rutgers, Tsipis is honored to share the court with Coach Vivian Stringer. Not only is Wisconsin's assistant coach Myia McCurdy a former basketball player of the Scarlet Knights, but also Tsipis sees the reflection of Stringer on McCurdy.
“I think the word to describe Coach Stringer is greatness and it’s not just as a coach,” Tsipis said. “To work with somebody day in and day out like Myia you see that part of how she challenged Myia during her college career.”
Although Coach Tsipis will enter his first Big Ten Tournament, this is not his first trip to the Bankers Life Fieldhouse. After coaching Notre Dame as an assistant in the national championship against Texas A&M in 2011, he is excited to return to the Fieldhouse.
“I’m excited, it’s obviously a place I’ve been to, I know it will be well run,” Tsipis said. “I’m excited because as I think we’ve seen all year in the Big Ten, it’s going to be a tournament where people are going to collide. There’s a lot on the line for teams getting ready for the postseason and obviously we want to do everything we can to extend our season.”
Last week, the Badgers split their series in the Border Battle against the No. 4 Gophers, escaping with a victory Friday, but losing Saturday, pushing the Badgers back to the second seat in the Big Ten.
Head coach Tony Granato was impressed by the 19 blocked shots that persevered a victory in Friday’s game. He reflected on sophomore captain Luke Kunin as an example of willingness to block shots.
“Being set by your captain and a young player that is supposed to be a goal scoring NHL player, who is willing to block shots, that sends through your entire roster,” Granato said.
Granato compared the energy and intensity of last week’s series to an NCAA championship game. In the future, he is excited to play in those environments against top-ranked opponents.
Despite last week’s tough challenge, Coach Granato now sets his team’s sights on the weekend series in “Hockey Valley” against the Nittany Lions, who swept the Badgers earlier this year.
“They found a way to stall us. We’ll have to find a way to be more consistent, keep our energy level going,” Granato said.
He sees improvement with a successful last two weeks in the Big Ten, making this week's series an exciting showdown on the ice.
“We’ve competed, we’ve battled, and we’ve put ourselves in a position from the physical part of the game to a different level than we had against Penn State [the first time],” Granato said.