Wisconsin confident heading into Big Ten Tournament matchup with Northwestern

Senior forward Marsha Howard recently became the seventh Wisconsin player to record 1,000 career points, and will finish her career at the Kohl Center Thursday night against Ohio State.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

The Wisconsin women’s basketball team (2-14 Big Ten, 9-20 overall) was awarded the No. 13 seed as it prepares to kick off Big Ten Tournament play on Wednesday against No. 12 seed Northwestern (4-12 Big Ten, 11-19 overall) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

UW sits 12-24 all time in the Big Ten Tournament with its best years being 2002, 2009 and 2010 when it advanced to the semifinals. This this time around, the Badgers hope to have another deep run.

“You always want to go into a game thinking you’re going to win,” senior guard Cayla McMorris said. “I just feel like that’s just motivation for us to even have a better Big Ten run then we did last year, I know especially for me it being my last Big Ten tournament ever and my last few games and I just want to go out and give everything that I can.”

Wisconsin finished its regular season on a bit of a sour note after losing a close game to Michigan State on the road last Wednesday. In that game however, one player who emerged as a strong competitor was junior forward Marsha Howard, who led the team with a career-high 28 points. In close pursuit was none other than McMorris, who added an additional 15 points.

“Scoring wise, I have to give you know tremendous kudos and praise to my teammates for finding me in open areas,” Howard said. “You know, them attacking and drawing my defender is pretty well implanted into our team game.”

Unlike the Badgers, Northwestern will be backed with momentum heading into the tournament after its huge win over Rutgers last Sunday as freshman guard Lindsay Pulliam’s 23-point performance earned her Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors.

Analyzing the statistics alone, UW and Northwestern look to be pretty evenly matched. But it should be noted that the last time UW faced Northwestern, the Badgers came out victorious with a significant score of 58-46. During that game, Howard was again Wisconsin’s leader, putting up 21 points in its home victory.

Howard and McMorris will likely need help though from freshman guard Niya Beverley. During UW’s recent stretch of games to finish out the regular season, Beverley has significantly improved her ball handling skills which has heightened her ability to take care of the ball, seen in the minimal number of turnovers she has recorded of late.

Pulliam will surely be feeling the energy after receiving Freshman of the Week honors, but so too will junior Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah, who will also be expected to make an impact considering she is often the leader of the Wildcats offensively.

“Hit her early and make contact first,” Howard said. “Try to apply as much pressure and aggressiveness as possible, hopefully to keep her from going to the glass.”

Continuing with more honors for the season, on Monday the conference announced that both Kunaiyi-Akpanah and Pulliam were consensus All-Big Ten selections on behalf of the coaches.

It was also announced that both McMorris and Howard earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors by league coaches. McMorris was a consensus pick, making this her second straight award by the media, and Howard’s first.

Both teams have players capable of putting up big numbers, but only one team will emerge victorious.

Tipoff is Wednesday at 12:30 p.m.

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