Wisconsin looks to eclipse last season's win total in matchup with Nebraska

Senior forward Marsha Howard had 16 points while Imani Lewis put up 18 in Wisconsin's loss to Rutgers Monday night.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

Last year, the Wisconsin women’s basketball team finished the regular season with nine total wins. And while it has been a bumpy year, to say the least, the Badgers have shown vast improvements throughout their 2017-’18 campaign, though the numbers and statistics may not say so.

Now sitting with nine wins in the middle of February, Wisconsin has a quartet of conference games to bookend its season and to achieve a goal set forth by the team heading into the year: surpass its win total from last season.

The Badgers' (9-16 Big Ten, 2-10 overall) first opportunity will not be easy, however, as they travel to Lincoln, Neb., to take on a very solid Nebraska Cornhuskers team (17-7, 8-3) who are in great position to make a postseason run.

Both Nebraska and Wisconsin hired coaches Amy Williams and Jonathan Tsipis two years ago with the hopes of turning around the programs and cultivating a culture of success and achievement for their respective programs. Now in their second seasons, both programs have reaped the benefits of their relatively new coaches’ presences. Marginally speaking, however, Williams’s Cornhuskers have proven to show more growth statistically as their current 17-game win total has completely exceeded their seven win total from the 2016-’17 season.

Defense has been the key to Nebraska’s success this season as it is allowing just 62.7 points per game in conference play and only 57.2 points per game over its last six games. Fellow Big Ten teams are just shooting 36.6 percent from the field and a cold 29.8 percent from the three-point line against Nebraska, both best in the conference.

The Huskers’ three conference losses have come at the hands of Michigan, Ohio State and Maryland, all of whom are ranked in the AP Top-25 poll.

The Big Red is lead by sophomore guard Hannah Whitish who leads the team in scoring with 13.8 points per game. Nebraska has also received major contributions from 6’5” freshman center Kate Cain who already owns the single-season Cornhusker blocks record with 79. Her 3.3 blocks per game rank fourth nationally.

Freshman guard Taylor Kissinger has also been a plus for the Huskers. Averaging 10.7 points per game off the bench, the guard has provided a scoring punch for the Big Red.

This will certainly be a tough game for the Badgers. UW must be able to execute its offense and be able to get to get solid opportunities on offense if it wants to hang with Nebraska.

Wisconsin showed great fight in its last game against No. 18 Ohio State. The Badgers kept it close the entire game, including using an early 8-0 scoring run in the third quarter to actually take a 36-35 lead.

Senior guard Cayla McMorris was able to get the pressure of scoring her 1000th career point off her chest with a stellar 15-point, 13-rebound effort and junior forward Marsha Howard commanded the paint with 20 points and eight rebounds. The star duo must be ready to go tomorrow as their contributions will be important in determining the outcome of the game.

UW will also need the the contributions from other scoring options if it is to beat the stifling Nebraska defense. Sophomore guard Suzanne Gilreath must be ready to go off the bench and knock down perimeter shots. Sophomore forward Courtney Fredrickson must be found early and often. And the starting backcourt of guards Niya Beverley and Kendra Van Leeuwen must run the show and create opportunities for their teammates to be successful.

Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.

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