Badgers welcome home

first_imgHome sweet home, as the saying goes, could not be any truer for the Wisconsin women’s basketball team this season. The Badgers have played by far their most solid basketball under the roof of the Kohl Center, boasting a home record of 11-2, losing only to No. 7 Ohio State and Illinois.Wins at home have come in impressive fashion for the Badgers, including a 51-point blowout of Southern Missouri and a convincing 27-point victory against a solid Kansas squad. The team’s average margin of victory of over 27 points is nearly 11 points more than what UW has done in its five road wins.Life on the road, however, has not been as kind to the Badgers, as they have just a 5-6 record in away games.”It’s hard to play anywhere in the Big Ten,” freshman forward Mariah Dunham said. “I think you just have to go into the game thinking that it’s another game.”Wisconsin is coming off two consecutive road games in which it lost to teams with worse records. Thursday against Indiana, UW fell behind early and was never able to dig itself out of a hole. On Sunday, the Badgers played a better game but still came up short against Penn State.”Our Penn State game was a great performance,” UW head coach Lisa Stone said. “We played really well. We got down and we could have gotten down in the dumps like we did Thursday, but we battled back, … played good defense, got into some foul trouble, yet played very well in a tough environment.”After escaping those tough environments with a slight hit to their record, Wisconsin hopes to use their home-court advantage to propel it toward postseason play in the Badgers’ final three home contests.”The Kohl Center is, in my mind, the No. 1 facility in the country,” Stone said. “It’s a warm, welcoming place to play. Our kids get charged up.”As point guard Rae Lin D’Alie said, the team takes comfort in coming back to playing in front of people who “support you and everything you do.””I think it’s definitely a comforting factor,” she said, “but good teams have to win on the road.”Winning conference games on the road is never an easy task. While no Big Ten arena is easy to play in, certain venues stand out as particularly tough. For Dunham, Michigan State’s Breslin Center, where the Badgers suffered a 10-point loss, was especially difficult.”I couldn’t even hear the ball dribble,” Dunham said. “It was so loud in there. I think we played a great game that game. We definitely stuck it out.”D’Alie and center Caitlin Gibson both felt Williams Arena in Minneapolis was a tough place to maintain focus. The large crowd, along with the arena’s elevated floors, presented challenges for the team.”Minnesota definitely sticks out,” D’Alie said. “We saw Michigan State had a very good crowd, but they were a little calmer. Minnesota really brings it at you.”Fingers can be pointed to a few reasons as to why the Badgers haven’t been quite as successful on the road, especially with such a young team. Stone, however, doesn’t single out any particular reason.”You could maybe lean on inexperience as one of the reasons, but I don’t make excuses,” Stone said. “We arrive early, we shoot there, and we do all the things we’re supposed to do. Focus is pretty good. It’s just that it’s different. We need to learn and make adjustments to when it’s different.”While the atmospheres may change from city to city, Stone and her team’s philosophy do not. Stone even relates her approach to a scene from the classic film, “Hoosiers,” in which Gene Hackman’s character measures the road gym’s hoops to ensure his team they are indeed the standard ten feet.”We try to keep it similar,” Stone said. “It’s different, though. Your uniforms (are different), you’re in a different city, and there’s not as many people cheering for you. We use the momentum of our good play to spark our interest and enjoy it.”Perhaps one of the best things to come out of road trips, however, is the level of bonding among the team members. Stone said the high level of team chemistry has been a byproduct of the time they have all spent together off the court, including time on the road.”The benefit of being on the road is that we’re together the whole time, so we’re bonding and they’re getting to know each other,” Stone said. “That’s helpful, and that is showing up with some good results.”Needless to say, the Badgers will be happy to return to their home court as Indiana and Iowa come to town this weekend.”We know the court, and we have great support,” Gibson said. “It’s just a great atmosphere.”last_img

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