Kelsey previews final games of regular season

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Feb. 18, 2014

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MADISON, Wis. - Only three games remain in the regular season and the Wisconsin women's basketball team is looking to pick up a big win yet this year. Head coach Bobbie Kelsey answered questions from the media on Tuesday afternoon as her team prepares to play to top-25 ranked teams.

The Badgers (10-15 overall, 3-10 Big Ten) continue the toughest part of their schedule, hosting No. 23 Michigan State (17-8, 9-3) on Thursday. Tip time is 8 p.m. from the Kohl Center, live on the Big Ten Network. UW takes to the road on Sunday, traveling to No. 21 Purdue (18-7, 8-5). Game time is 1 p.m. CT from Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind., live on the Big Ten Network.

Wisconsin is in the toughest part of its schedule, facing three straight ranked teams. The Badgers dropped a 78-68 decision at then-No. 11 Penn State on Sunday and host No. 23/RV Michigan State on Thursday. The tough stretch wraps up on Sunday with a game at No. 21/21 Purdue.

A complete transcription of Kelsey's remarks is below.

Opening Statement: We lost a tough one to Penn State this last week here. I was proud of the kids, the way they played. We were at some point up by nine, and then we kind of let the lead slip away from us. To play, the 11th-ranked team in the country, we had an opportunity to do something really special, but we just couldn't close it out. Again, (Penn State is) a very talented team and a big team - outsized us in a lot of areas, but our kids fought and just came up a bit short.

I think the last time we were here we spoke about Malayna Johnson. She's getting a little more time now, isn't she?

Yes, she is. She played really well in that game. She had a lot of strong moves to the basket.  I think she sometimes she forgets she's 6-4 and she's powerful. I always remind her - you're going to be a great player. When you figure out how good you are, it's going to be trouble for the other team, because she's long and she can catch the ball.

She's got to work on finishing a little bit better around the basket. But now I have her taking the shots.  One time she wouldn't even look at the basket. We don't double-team her in practice. We just let her make a post move.  I mean not let her ... but we double-team Mick (Johnson) because everybody else does. But she's come a long way. She's getting there. We need her.

With all the injuries you guys have dealt with over the last couple of years, what can you say about Morgan Paige, going to play her 100th straight game, and kind of her toughness?

Morgan's very tough. She's had injuries as well, but with hers, she's been able to kind of get through them. Some of the others, just with backs and things, you just don't want to jeopardize. But she's been banged up all those 100 games, straight starts. 

But Morgan's a warrior. She really is. She doesn't play perfect games, but I can always depend on her to play hard. She'll make mistakes here and there and try to do too much sometimes, but you can appreciate the passion that she plays with and the toughness that she plays with, because I'm sure there's times when she might want to rest her foot, but she can't. She knows we need her. And she steps up every time. I didn't realize she had 100 starts. That's pretty good.

You like the progress Nicole Bauman's been making? Not just because of the game she just played, but what you're seeing in her?

She looks a lot more confident up there. ... she's the unsung hero. It's hard to run (the point) by yourself.  Nicole's had to become a point guard, and she's calling plays and getting people where they need to be. I don't like her up there, but this last game, I think she kind of saw where she can still score at the point guard position. You just have to look for your shots and take them. In this game, she took them and made them. I hope that continues, because if we can get her going, then that's an extra scorer because she wasn't scoring for a little while.

But I think she wasn't comfortable up there. Now that she knows she can do it -- she knows, if people pick her up full court, we're going to screen for her, so she doesn't have to worry about bringing it up against a real good defender right on her in the back court. I think she's a lot more confident up there and she knows the plays, and she can give direction and she plays hard.

She bruised her thigh two days before the game, and we didn't think she was going to be able to play.  But Nicole's a warrior too. I love these kids. They fight. We just need to fight a little smarter in the game sometimes. But they do fight. They don't ever give up.

To that point, you've got quite a few players on the team shooting sub-40 percent. I know sometimes the numbers don't tell the whole story. So is that a question of just struggling shooting or shot selection or both?

I think, for the most part, I've not had to say much about shot selection. I think we settle for shots sometimes when we can get closer to the basket. Sometimes we want to put up that three because that's what we're used to doing. But I'm encouraging them to go to the basket and we're trying to spread out more so that we have space to go in there and get some more shots in the paint.

I know this last game, we had quite a few points in the paint. Points in the paint can be misleading because you think that's just a post player turning around and shooting a layup, but it's any shot in the paint, whether it be a jumper (or) a layup. Anytime you get in there and score, it counts.

But I think it's also kids got to get in the gym more and shoot. There's a reason why certain kids in our league, you can't leave them, for no reason. Maggie Lucas, you cannot leave. (Rachel) Banham you cannot leave. There's certain ones that, if you leave them, you might as well put two up on the board. We need to have shooters like that as well.

Now we get hot, we're streaky, but we have to be consistent. I think that's the message to them, to be more consistent.

You've almost knocked off each of the top-three teams in the league, including Michigan State. Is it a matter of time, Bobbie?

I hope so. I'm always hopeful. I always believe that we can win. I tell them every game - we have enough to win. We have enough. But we have to put it all together. I've kind of been saying that the whole year, and we haven't really done that yet.

But I'm so hopeful because if we don't believe as a coaching staff, the kids don't. So you've always got to believe in them even if they don't believe in themselves. That's why we've always been able to be close. I know the last game against Michigan State, Nicole didn't even play and Taylor (Wurtz) was sick.  She had the flu so she barely played. I had to limit her minutes.

But those kids stepped up. Malayna stepped up, Tessa (Cichy) did, AnnMarie (Brown) did.  So they're ready to play when their number is called.

But the almost is killing me. The close and the right there, I can't even stand it. When you take over a program and you're trying to build it, that's what you're going to have, those almost games. It's encouraging because we're not getting blown out by 44 points. We had a 44-point loss last year. I didn't even know what that was.

But you've got to give yourself an opportunity. When you're that close, if I just box out, if I just make a free throw, if I just play a little better defense on that possession, throughout the course of the game, then you know you can knock somebody off.  So I'm still believing.

Kind of piggy-backing off of that, it hasn't been the greatest season, but what could two wins against two of the top teams in the conference do for this program vaulting into next year?

It could do a lot. Every win is a big win for us, but when you're playing against the top of the league, you want to have that statement, signature game that you can build upon.  And I know we did that from last year to this year. It's exciting for us to be able to go in. The pressures not really on us, so to speak; it's on the team that's ranked or has all these accolades and different things.

I think the kids are itching for a win. We all are. And being close is nice, but you want to get -- you just got to turn the page and turn the corner and take it. You've got to be assertive and aggressive.  In this last game, we gave up a couple of baskets when we weren't aggressive. It's a matter of everybody making up their individual mind and bringing together as a team.

Women's Basketball
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