After an emotional 77-74 victory over Southern University at the Kohl Center, complemented by a career night by sophomore forward Abby Laszewski, the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball has a quick turnaround as they head out east to Washington D.C. to participate in the Paradise Jam tournament running from Nov. 23-25.
A part of the “Reef Division”, the Badgers (2-1) will kick off tournament play with a 10 a.m. matinee matchup against Syracuse University (3-0).
Young and inexperienced, the Orange lost four starters, including star guards Brittany Sykes and Alexis Peterson to the WNBA from last years’ 22-11 team that reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. Sophomore shooting guard Gabrielle Cooper is the lone returner for the ‘Cuse. But, despite the loss of talent, it has been smooth sailing for Syracuse this year as the Orange have defeated all three their opponents by double-figures.
In addition to Cooper, notable contributors to the rebuilding Orange so far have been led by sophomore guard Tiana Mangakahia and redshirt junior forward Miranda Drummond. Mangakahia, a junior college transfer who led Hutchinson Community College to a 32-2 record last season, is averaging a double-double in her first season with Syracuse and serves as the team’s second-leading scorer, 13 points per game, and leads the teams in assists, 10 assists per game. Drummond has been a constant for the Syracuse offense as she has been in double-figures for all three of the Orange’s games this year and leads the Orange in rebounding, 8.7 per game.
As the University of Wisconsin looks to build off their momentum gained from the Southern victory, this game holds a little bit more meaning to one Badger. Assistant coach Sasha Palmer was once the recruiting coordinator on Syracuse’s staff from 2013-’15 and helped the Orange amass a 45-20 overall record during her tenure in upstate New York.
While Syracuse may have graduated all of the players Palmer oversaw at Syracuse, Palmer is quite keen on how the Orange play. “I know [head coach Quentin Hillsman’s] coaching style, what they like to run both offensively and defensively.”
The Syracuse women’s basketball team has become indoctrinated in legendary Syracuse men’s basketball coach, Jim Boeheim’s employment of the 2-3 zone on defense.
“They do run the 2-3 zone,” Palmer said. “It’s a little different than the men, but there are some variations and such that make it similar.”
Although the Badgers have not seen much zone action this year — their only action came against a matchup zone against Charlotte University in UW’s season opener — they will have to take a slightly different approach to beating the zone.
“Syracuse presses,” Palmer said. “So we will have to beat and use different attacks getting into the heart of the zone and making the defense move.”
The Badgers impressed against Charlotte as they used crisp ball movement, cutting and slip actions and a hot hand to shoot the 49ers out of the zone. UW shot 10-of-15 from the 3-point line in the first half against Charlotte which opened up the middle and short-corners of the zone, allowing for cutting Badgers to finish layups underneath.
Look for shooters such as Suzanne Gilreath, Courtney Fredrickson and Cayla McMorris to spread the court and attack the gaps of the zone, while Leszewski looks to build off of her career performance on the inside by finding soft spots in the zone and finishing at the rim.