Wisconsin looks to avenge tourney loss

Ryan Schuster

It’s been almost a year since the 11th-seeded Gophers women’s basketball team upset sixth-seeded Wisconsin, 80-75, in the first round of the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament. Both teams have varying views on the game.
Almost a year later, the Badgers haven’t forgotten the disappointing loss that ended their season.
“I think our players will remember that,” Wisconsin coach Jane Albright-Dieterle said. “It was a game that we got outplayed, outhustled and out-everything. Minnesota taught us a lot of lessons last year in that game. It was a situation that really helped us identify a lot of the weaknesses in our program.”
Wisconsin (13-6 overall, 2-5 Big Ten), which blew an 11-point lead with four minutes left in the Big Ten Tournament loss a year ago, will play the Gophers for the first time since that game on Sunday afternoon at the Sports Pavilion.
While last year’s game is still fresh in the Badgers’ minds, it seems to be no more than a faded memory to the Gophers, who have lost 14 of their 18 games since.
Minnesota (4-13 overall, 1-6 Big Ten) does feel a sense of urgency about their weekend games against Penn State and Wisconsin, though.
“This weekend is a must win for us,” Gophers junior forward Sonja Robinson said. “To get our own self-esteem, our confidence and our intensity back, it has to start this weekend.”
The Gophers appeared to be turning their season around after upsetting Michigan State, 81-73 on the road on Jan. 11. But Minnesota fell apart last weekend in lopsided losses to Ohio State and Northwestern, two teams in the bottom half of the conference.
“Last weekend would have been a good opportunity for us to come away with two wins over some lower teams,” junior forward Lynda Hass said. “But, we didn’t prepare very well for them. We had a pretty lousy week of practice the week before those games.”
The team has had a more intense week of practices this week and is confident it is prepared for the weekend ahead.
Minnesota is more concerned with playing better, no matter what the score, than worrying about facing its border rivals.
“Our focus right now is to be consistent, to work hard and to execute well on offense,” Gophers coach Cheryl Littlejohn said. “Those are the three things we can key on. I’m not talking about wins, I’m not talking about losses, I’m just talking about our team being committed to working hard.”
After going a disheartening 16-11 last season and failing to make the postseason on the heels of back-to-back 20-win NCAA tournament appearances, nothing is a sure thing for Wisconsin anymore. The Badgers have had a sobering start to their Big Ten season and can’t afford to overlook anyone on their schedule — even the Gophers.
“We’re 2-5 in the Big Ten, so we’re looking at every game we play like we have to win it,” Albright-Dieterle said. “We certainly aren’t overlooking anybody. The last time we played Minnesota, they beat us in the spring. They’re not a team that we take lightly.”