Women’s hoops molding into Kelsey’s philosophy

first_imgNobody ever said it was going to be an easy transition for the Wisconsin women’s basketball team under a new coach and a new system. But what the record of the Badgers doesn’t reflect is the team is finally showing signs of the team head coach Bobbie Kelsey knows they can be.Losers of seven of their last eight games, including a six game slide which lasted almost an entire month, the Badgers (5-12, 1-4) snapped their losing streak by winning their first conference game on the road against Illinois 70-67 on Jan. 8 and continued their solid play by taking No. 15/23 Nebraska down to the wire at the Kohl Center before falling to the Huskers 75-69 on Jan. 12.Offensively, the Badgers were struggling to find an answer during their six-game losing streak. Although facing difficult competition, including four straight games against ranked opponents, the Badgers only averaged 51.5 points per game during their skid. But in the past two games, the Badgers are averaging 69.5 points, significantly higher than the 56.8 points the team averages per game for the entire season and the points averaged during the six-game slide.For senior guard Jade Davis, the recent improvement is a result of the team’s growing understanding of coach Kelsey’s offense through the continued experience of games and practice.“The games are fast. If you don’t understand the offense, initially it’s hard to see it with fast movement and knowing where to be,” Davis said. “It definitely takes knowing it in-depth in practice and the experience in the games to help make it what it is. We’re understanding the offense a lot more; we’re not settling for the first look. We’re doing the little things now. We’re not settling with just being out there.”Junior guard Taylor Wurtz voiced the same belief: The Badgers’ recent improved play is a reflection of the work they put in every day in practice.“Everything starts with practice,” Wurtz said. “We’ve been coming into practice knowing we have to improve. We’re working really hard and that’s been huge. We’ve picked it up in the games too; we always go in with the underdog mentality and give it our all.”While the Badgers appear to be breaking through offensively, they are still struggling to find a rhythm on defense this year. The Badgers rank 324 out of 336 teams ranked in Division I women’s basketball in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents on average to shoot 44.1 percent from the floor. In the past eight games, the Badgers have stayed true to that trend, allowing opponents on average to shoot 46.7 percent from the floor.For Davis, the high numbers opponents have been shooting from the floor comes from the Badgers not containing opposing players from getting into the lane.“We’ve been giving up a lot of layups,” Davis said. “Coach has been preaching one-on-one containment and stopping the fast breaks. The high percentage comes from us giving up layups and a lot of easy looks.”Efforts to stop that trend have been incorporated every day in practice.“As far as the one-on-one drives go, we’ve been working on that every day in practice,” Kelsey said. “Some of it’s technique, but most of it’s will. You can’t let a person go one direction with it and not force them to handle the ball at all to score. It’s a personal pride thing; you have to dig in and stop somebody.”For Kelsey, the defensive struggles can be linked to offensive issues as well. While the Badgers are giving up a high percentage from the floor, Wisconsin is struggling to match their opponent’s production, shooting 38.7 percent on average. If the Badgers are to compete down the stretch, they will need to outshoot their opponents until they fix their defensive struggles.“The problem is all the other players we face can shoot,” Kelsey said. “You can’t really leave any of the players we’ve faced on other teams because they don’t have any weak shooters. That’s been a little tough, and that’s why I tell our players it’s important for us to hit shots because when they leave certain players on our team open, we have to knock them down. We have to do what people are doing to us; our entire team needs to be able to consistently make the open looks so other teams will have to respect us like we have with them.While the Badgers enter a favorable stretch on their schedule where the team will face five straight unranked opponents, including three at home, Kelsey and Davis see the team on the right track to fixing their struggles.“We’re keying in on the things we need to do to get better,” Kelsey said. “We’re working on taking away the other team’s favorite tendencies offensively. You can’t leave the best players open.”last_img

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