The Wolverines are hoping to make a statement as they expect a victory over the Badgers on Thursday. The last time these two teams faced one another, it wasn’t even close as Michigan cruised by in a 69-40 victory in Madison.
With the majority of non-conference games already played, the No. 13 Michigan women’s basketball team heads to Madison this Thursday to face Wisconsin in its Big Ten opener.
“For the first Big Ten game, I think you really want to send a message,” senior forward Emily Kiser said. “Start off strong, scout is going to be huge in the Big Ten, so we’re definitely going to focus on that, get a win and to keep this momentum going.”
Last season, the Badgers ended the year 2-18 in the Big Ten, finishing dead last in the conference. This led to the dismissal of Wisconsin coach Jonathan Tsipis and the hiring of new coach Marisa Moseley from Boston University, where she led the Terriers to a 45-29 overall record in three seasons.
So far, it appears to be more of the same. The Badgers hold a 2-7 record, the worst in the Big Ten. After a win against St. Thomas to start the season, they have lost seven of their last eight.
Wisconsin has struggled offensively, scoring just 58.5 points per game. Still, they usually find some production from guards Julia Pospisilova and Sydney Hilliard, who are both averaging around 14 points per game.
The Badgers expected to get most of their offensive production through transfer Katie Nelson from Boston University. Last season, she averaged 12 points per game with the Terriers. This season, though, she has struggled to put a complete offensive game together, averaging a lowly 4.8 points per game and has yet to have a double-digit scoring game this season. Despite this, she leads the team in minutes.
The Wolverines can hope to take advantage of Wisconsin’s stagnant offense with their potent defense, as Michigan is holding its opponents to 54.3 points per game — the 46th fewest in the nation and second fewest in the Big Ten. It’s defense is led by Kiser, who leads the team in defensive rebounds and steals with 51 and 10, respectively.
Despite the Badgers’ struggles, the Wolverines know that they will need to be on their A-game in order to secure a win.
“The Big Ten is different,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “Conference play is really different going on the road. Starting on Thursday, it’s a change of mindset.”
This will be Michigan’s third road game of the year. The Wolverines went 1-1 in their first two road games with a win over Central Michigan and a blowout loss to Louisville. Despite the loss to the Cardinals, Michigan believes it has learned a lesson it can apply in conference play.
“This is what (non-conference) prepares us for and playing on the road is really challenging,” Barnes Arico said. “We saw that against Louisville the other night. But in Big Ten play, it’s also a major home court advantage when you’re at home. Just shifting gears and really getting focused for conference play.”
Michigan has won the last 10 matchups against Wisconsin by an average of 17.4 points per game. The Badgers have struggled as a program over the past decade. Wisconsin’s last winning season came in 2010-11 under head coach Lisa Stone.
On paper, the Wolverines are heavily favored against the Badgers. But Michigan knows the grind of a Big Ten road schedule and has to be prepared for anything.
“For Wisconsin, just keep being aggressive,” Michigan freshman guard Laila Phelia said. “I feel like we’re gonna come out strong and we’re going to be able to win.”