JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoNov. 10 seems like a lifetime ago. That was the day the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team defeated Air Force — which later finished the season at the bottom of the Mountain West Conference — in the regular season debut. Now only one team stands in the Badgers’ way of a WNIT championship: the Wyoming Cowgirls, also from the Mountain West.How fitting.Unfortunately for UW head coach Lisa Stone’s squad, though, they will have to take their 18-3 home record westward to Laramie, Wyo. in front of an already sold-out crowd of about 15,000.The Cowgirls are 15-1 in their home gym this season.”It’s going to be a test of toughness for us,” Stone said. “Mental toughness. We’ve got to go in there, play well, compete, and play like we can play.”Wyoming is led by junior forward Hannah Zavecz, who dropped 28 points in the Cowgirls’ triple overtime victory over Kansas State (a team the Badgers beat 56-53 Nov. 24) in the WNIT semifinals Wednesday night. Zavecz averages 14 points per game and shoots better than 41 percent from 3-point range.Wyoming has two other starters who average in double figures, junior forward Justyna Podziemska and junior guard Jodi Bolerjack, who tally 13.0 and 11.5 points per game, respectively.Stone described Wyoming as a mix between Villanova and UW-Green Bay — a team that defeated the Badgers back on Dec. 13 — because they wind the shot clock down on most possessions and spread the floor on offense.Stone said they’re up for the task.”We’re a lot better than we were [when we played UW-Green Bay],” Stone said. “We’ve got to get to the weak side, pressure the basketball, deny initial passes and defend the drive.”UW freshman forward Mariah Dunham doesn’t think the triple overtime marathon will affect the hosts Saturday.”It doesn’t matter during tournament time,” Dunham said. “Everyone comes out to play.”The Badgers are a little banged up themselves, with leading scorer Jolene Anderson battling a right hip contusion she suffered Wednesday night in the victory over Western Kentucky. Despite feeling quite sore Thursday morning, she assured the media that she would be ready to go come Saturday.Anderson is eight points shy of tying the WNIT record for most points in a single tournament.Fellow backcourt mate Janese Banks knows her team will bring it’s A-game, despite not having played a true road game since Feb. 25, when Wisconsin lost 103-93 at Iowa.”You’ve got to forget about being tired,” Banks said. “There’s one more game; it’s do or die, now or never. We don’t have a choice. It’s time to get this done.”Although the outcome of the game is still up in the air, one thing is for certain: Win or lose, this will be the last game of the season for both teams. And quite frankly, no one on the UW women’s basketball team wants this postseason run to come to an end.Anderson described the entire season in one word: success.”That’s one word that pinpoints it,” Anderson said. “We’ve come a long way from where we started. Our team’s elevated [our game] all year.”Although their season will be over sometime late Saturday afternoon, each player making the trip to Wyoming has one thing on her mind: a WNIT championship.”To end the season with a win would be something special,” Banks said. “I just want to end it on a positive note.”
There’s a chance of a bunched fnish to this stage with challenging conditions in the Rhone Valley likely to affect the cyclists.Chris Froome is still the man to catch after he extended his overall lead yesterday.