B1G Game 4: Gophers @ Wisconsin (1/3/2021)

Ignatius L Hoops

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SAME OLD STINKING BADGERS?
Now that Sydney Hilliard has transformed her game, can she transform the Badgers (0-3)? And while doing so, can she ensure Jonathon Tsipis’ return? Okay, the first question is a big ask and the second is pure armchair speculation; but something or someone needs to freshen the air in Madison.

Last season the Badgers finished 3-15 (12th) in the B1G. In Jonathon Tsipis’ four previous seasons UW’s B1G records were 4-14 (11th), 2-14 (13th) and 3-13 (11th). That’s a dismal .176 conference winning percentage. Tsipis’ predecessor, Bobbie Kelsey, won at a .212 clip during her first four seasons. Then following her fifth season, Kelsey became a former head coach by logging a 5-11 conference record. So, expectations must hang heavily in the Kohl Center air.

As for 5’11” sophomore guard, Sydney Hilliard, she’s doing her damndest as the bearer of positivity. Over the summer, Hilliard apparently entered her makeover garage and emerged transformed. Last season she started every conference game posting 29.5 minutes, 8.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. This season, in three B1G games, she’s averaged 19.0 points, 5 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 33.0 minutes per game. That’s a notable performance jump.

Last season, Hilliard didn’t chart in any top categories, now she’s an omni threat. Her field goal percentage (.574) is that of a post player and she’s dishing the dimes. True, Rutgers flummoxed Hilliard into 9 turnovers; but normally she’s pretty much a “make the safe pass” point guard. In the games I’ve watched she has a tendency to attack the left side of the bucket. Hilliars’s shooting .429 from three but has only 7 attempts-obviously Tsipis is encouraging her to pick up the launch rate. Until meeting Michigan, her game had been effortlessly sensational.

Hilliard, of course, has help.

First, there’s double-double threat, 6’1” junior forward, Imani Lewis. Last season Lewis was 9th in B1G scoring (15.3) and 2nd in rebounding (9.5). She’s currently on a similar pace.

Second, we have improving, occasional point guard, 6’0” sophomore, Julie Pospisilova. The Prague native is UW’s third leading scorer and leads the team in steals and three point percentage .500 (11-22). A down-side is 17 turnovers in the first three B1G games. 11 of those were against a blood-in-the-water Rutgers press, so I’m tossing them out as statistical anomalies. The Scarlet Knights “D” decimates mere mortals.

Third, we introduce Madison native and former five star Stanford recruit, 6’1” guard, Estella Moschkau. Moschkau played sparingly in three seasons on The Farm and is a grad transfer. Tsipis and the Badgers are hoping her career has a glorious sunset.

Fourth are the post players. The most notable thing about Wisconsin’s posts is that Tsipis is trying to get them touches. Sometimes it works. Sometimes they struggle. Centennial’s Sara Stapleton, 6’3” sophomore has started every game. 6’2” Kate Thompson comes off the bench. The posts do help the Badgers field a long and physical team. Just about everyone is at least 6’0” tall and has a nose for the ball; which may tempt Whalen to use the “big” lineup she introduced against IU.

Wisconsin’s Season Before Michigan:

The Badgers tipped off with a home win over Western Illinois, 73-66. Then, befitting this quirky year, they opened Big Ten play in Iowa City by posting their 23rd consecutive loss to the Hawkeyes, 78-85. Five days later, Rutgers visited Madison and captured a 65-70 victory. Wisconsin was a competitive annoyance in both conference games.

Returning to non-conference play, the Badgers defeated North Dakota 80-60. Next, UW hosted Valparaiso, a team already possessing wins over Illinois, 62-58 and Purdue, 52-47. Valpo took the Badgers to OT before a 7-0 run rewarded UW with an 89-92 victory. Valpo coach Mary Evans said Wisconsin featured a better balance of scorers and players that could get to the rim than Illinois and Purdue. It’s another way of saying Valpo struggled to contain the Badger motion offense.

Michigan Don’t Care About No Stinking Badgers:

On New Year’s Eve Wisconsin made the trek to Ann Arbor where the Wolverines celebrated the New Year by kicking Badger butt up and down the court. Michigan, playing their first game in 22 days, had eight players available (five were out). The good news for the Wolverines was that all the starters were good to go. And they went right inside to establish dominance before mixing in three pointers. It was 48-27 Michigan at the half and 92-49 Michigan at full time.

Hilliard scored 5 points in the first five minutes then tweaked her right ankle in a scramble for the ball. Her game didn’t fully recover as she finished with 9 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in 29 minutes.

Yes, they appear to be the same old stinking Badgers.

Last Season’s Matchups with Minnesota:

The Badgers entered Willliams Arena in late January having lost 13 consecutive contests to Minnesota. They left Williams celebrating a 72-62 victory and tied with the Gophers with 2-6 conference records. UW overcame a three point half time deficient by outscoring Minnesota 19-8 in the third quarter and subsequently closing the game on a 12-2 run. It was one of three B1G wins for Wisconsin (the others were Penn State and Illinois). Imani Lewis dominated with 23 points and 16 rebounds. Sydney Hilliard was the only other starter returning this season. The freshman version of Hilliard scored 6 points in 30 minutes. For Minnesota: Gadiva Hubbard and Jasmine Brunson each scored 12, Scalia (0-5 from three) contributed 10 and Jasmine Powell came off the bench for 11.

The return match in Madison was a Minnesota 73-64 win featuring Gopher freshmen starters. Jasmine Powell led the way with 24 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in 40 minutes. Sara Scalia was the second leading scorer with 16 points (3-7 from three) and 4 rebounds in 32 minutes. Gadiva Hubbard chipped in 7 points and 3 rebounds in 35 minutes. It was notable that Taiye Bello (19 minutes) and Kehinde Bello (28 minutes) both started and fouled out. For the Badgers: Lewis had 15 points and 5 rebounds while Hilliard scored 4 points.


Sydney Hilliard’s Last Six Games

TeamPtsRebAsstMinFoul
Western Illinois2484382
Iowa2696361
Rutgers2234222
North Dakota1856282
Valparaiso2549411
Michigan943292


Imani Lewis Last Six Games:

TeamPtsRebAsstMinFoul
Western Illinois1371323
Iowa17110272
Rutgers12102332
North Dakota1091213
Valparaiso19111383
Michigan940282




Probable Starters (Big Ten Stats):

HGTPOSYRPLAYERMINAVGREB
5’11”GSoSydney Hilliard33.019.05.0
6’1”FJrLewis Imani29.312.78.3
6’0”GSoJulie Pospisilova29.74.05.0
6’3”F/CSoSara Stapleton19.36.33.3
6’1”GGrEstella Moschkau27.08.73.0


Bench (Big Ten Stats):

HGTPOSYRPLAYERMINAVGREB
6’0”GRJrBrooke Schramdk23.07.53.0
5’11”FSoTara Stauffacher11.02.30.7
6’2”F/CFrKate Thompson14.33.33.3

 

Ignatius L Hoops

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Michael Rand poses 10 sports questions for the new year.
7) After a not-so-promising start, can the Gophers women's basketball team turn things around? Lindsay Whalen's third year, on the other hand, is off to a rough start. Minnesota is 1-4, and those four losses have come by an average of 24 points.

Injuries and illness severely limited practice time and player availability early on. Seeing meaningful improvement, starting Sunday at Wisconsin, will tell us a lot where the program is headed.
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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Minnesota is 18-18 all-time at Wisconsin, its most road wins and best road win percentage against one program. The Gophers have won seven in a row in Madison, not losing at the Kohl Center since Jan. 9, 2011. The average score in those games has been 72-60.

• The seven game road win streak in the series is Minnesota's longest active versus one school ahead of five in a row at Northern Iowa and three-game road win streaks at Notre Dame, Purdue, Santa Clara and South Dakota.

• Owning a 3-1 mark against Wisconsin, a win Sunday would mark the first time Lindsay Whalen has beaten a team four times in her coaching career. She is also 3-0 against Penn State.
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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Whalen has also been considering a new lineup. And while during Friday's Zoom conference call she said she hadn't made any final decisions, there is one move she's committed to: playing Kadi Sissoko almost exclusively at the big forward position. Up to now, Sissoko has alternated between the two forward positions. At the 4 (power forward), Whalen said Sissoko has been the team's best player in practice over the past week.

"I think she has more freedom on the offensive end there. I'm going to stick with that," Whalen said. "I think she'd say that's where she's most comfortable. We needed to pick a place for her and let her focus on that."
 

Belzx009

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I am really excited about this game. It seems forever since they have played. Hoping to see some big improvements. Hoping Strande gets some playing time in her home state. More or less I just want to see her play so I can get a better opinion of her.
 

MNGirlsHoops

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I like Sissoko, but should be limited to 2 dribbles... you either dribble attacking or move the ball... she will learn.. very talented, but raw BB mind within team play.
 

thatjanelpick

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Hey, Washburn-McReavy, maybe shell out the money for your announcer to congratulate the right team when your ads play during women's basketball? Fans of this game probably care more about Whalen than Pitino.
 

JellyBean2144

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Shooting is still a struggle. Scalia is shooting the ball well but the rest of the team needs to get in the gym and put some extra hours in on shooting the ball.
 

MNGirlsHoops

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Shooting is still a struggle. Scalia is shooting the ball well but the rest of the team needs to get in the gym and put some extra hours in on shooting the ball.
the key is making the extra pass so players can shoot in rhythm.. we started to that better, but if we continue to make that extra pass we will do well
 

Frink

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Wiscy's zone is pretty passive. We did a nice job moving the ball on the perimeter and getting the ball to the forwards inside at the high post and short corner. If they continue that zone I hope we keep getting inside and don't fall in love with threes.
 

JellyBean2144

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Man. The Gophers letting Wisconsin get back into this game. Gotta lock down on defense.
 

JellyBean2144

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We are in luck. If Wisconsin was really good, we would be in some serious trouble right now. Thank God they are a struggling team as well.
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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Scalia back out of the locker room after the sore shoulder. It looks like she may have a small ice bag on it.
 

Frink

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Smith creating havoc on D. Love it, just need to take advantage on the offensive end.
 

Katogopher

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Offense flowed better with Scalia running the point. Hopin Powell gets her confidence and mojo back for the 4th quarter
 

JellyBean2144

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Holy smokes!! Do we work on skill development in practice? Footwork. Simple pivot move...score.
 

JellyBean2144

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I like Sissoko taking that rebound and pushing the tempo. She wants to play!! She playing like she wants to win. The rest of the team....IDK
 
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