March 6, 2013
MADISON, Wis. - When the Wisconsin women’s basketball team takes on Illinois in the first round of the Big Ten Conference Tournament on Thursday, ball control will be on the UW’s mind. The Badgers and Illini tip at approximately 2 p.m. in the second round of the tournament at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
“(Illinois) leads our conference in causing turnovers so that will be a point of emphasis for us in taking care of the ball,” said head coach Bobbie Kelsey. “They do a nice job of getting their hands on the ball, especially if you hold it too long or if you don’t make a good passing decision. “
In the first two meetings this season, Illinois won both – a 65-56 win in Madison on Feb. 3 and a 60-53 victory in Champaign on Feb. 18. In both games, the Badgers had 27 turnovers as the Illini had 19 steals in the first game and 17 takeaways in the second.
Despite the turnovers, Wisconsin was in both games until Illinois pulled away late for the wins.
That has happened more often than not for the Badgers this Big Ten season. Wisconsin has been within five points with less than five minutes to play in nine conference losses.
“It’s hard when you keep being in (games) but don’t win them,” said Kelsey. “At least they don’t quit. It’s been difficult because we’ve been right there. The only thing I can say is keep working. “
UW has been working on defense, holding its last six opponents, including Illinois on Feb. 18, to 60-or-fewer points. Unfortunately, the Badgers have been struggling on offense, averaging just 53.2 points per game the last six games, including 48 points at Michigan State last Sunday.
“We have to do a better job of cutting without the ball,” said Kelsey about improving her team’s offense. “It’s hard when it’s one or two little things (that cause you to lose). You fix one thing and something else goes wrong.”
The Big Ten tournament will be the final games for senior Tiera Stephen as UW will not qualify for post season unless it wins the tournament to earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Kelsey hasn’t talked about next season much but with the experience this year’s team has gained, as well as the return of Taylor Wurtz and AnnMarie Brown and the addition of transfer Michala Johnson, the Badgers will be much more experienced.
“With those three there sitting on the bench, we could have won a lot more games,” said Kelsey. “Our team continues to play hard but it’s something that is hard for them but they accept it. It’s the hand we’ve been dealt and we’ll deal with it.”