Following an intense overtime victory of 73-71 against Vanderbilt in the third and final game of the Paradise Jam holiday tournament, the Badgers, now 3-3 and off to their best start to the year since the 2012-’13 season, hope to settle down after a busy few days of consecutive games as they prepare to face Pittsburgh (5-1) Wednesday night.
The Panthers, coached by Suzie McConnell-Serio, have gotten off to a strong start this season, experiencing only one loss to Duquesne. Just as the Badgers will be coming off a win, so too will the Panthers. Not only did they beat Arkansas State by a significant margin,87-47, but Pitt also managed to set a school record for 3-pointers made in a single game, ending the night with 15 3-pointers in its dominating performance. Easy to say the Panthers are coming off a hot hand after shooting 68.2 percent against their last opponent. Additionally, the Panthers have outscored their last two opponents by roughly 20 plus points.
When examining the success Pittsburgh has experienced thus far in its season, there appears to be a handful players who have made significant contributions to their victories. First, there is the team’s sole senior leader guard, Aysia Bugg. In the 2016-’17 season, Bugg led the team in assists and posted nine double-figure scoring games. Bugg has been a dominant force throughout her years at Pitt and will definitely be a guard who UW will have to control. Another guard who has already made a major impact this season is Jasmine Whitney who has put up significant points for the Panthers already this season.
Kalista Walters, the center for the Panthers, will also strive to impact the game as well down low. Walters was among one of the Panthers’ three top scorers last season and earned her way to the starting lineup in the last seven games of the year, averaging 7.5 points per game. Finally, one last player who has been leading Pittsburgh is forward, Yacine Diop, who is averaging 17.7 points a game and has already hit 106 points this season.
The Badgers, however, have been diverting considerable attention to defense. The team has been focusing on not only taking care of the ball more, but also playing tough physical defense and communicating with each other in order for other things to fall into place. During the holiday tournament held in Washington, D.C, certain Badger players made some huge contributions to the team’s overall performance, including senior Cayla McMorris who averaged 17 points a game throughout the tournament, and finished the weekend with 51 points. Marsha Howard followed close behind totaling 41 points at the end of the tournament as well. In terms of preparing to face Pittsburgh, both McMorris and Howard must take control in leading the team during this challenging matchup, while keeping players calm and collected if things get chaotic.
UW has been matched with some tough opponents so far this season, and facing an ACC team on Wednesday will be no exception. UW must matchup to Pitt’s shooters, especially after coming off a game of 15 collective 3-pointers, as well as contest its post players down low if its hope to secure a road win. Tipoff is at 6 p.m.