Badgers relying on freshman class

first_imgGREGORY DIXON/Herald PhotoComing off two double-digit victories in exhibition games, the UW women’s basketball team is ready to get its regular season underway. They open the ’06-’07 campaign on the road at the Air Force Academy Friday, the first-ever meeting between the two programs.The Falcons are coming off of a 13-15 season, their best finish since joining Division I. They finished seventh in the Mountain West Conference last season and are predicted to finish eighth this season. They finished 1-1 in the preseason, including a 65-60 loss against Metro State Sunday.Because these two teams have never met, Badgers head coach Lisa Stone is not sure what to expect in terms of offensive and defensive schemes. Nonetheless, she expects a hard-fought battle. “[Air Force is] home and they certainly are excited to play us,” she said at a press conference Monday.The only other service academy the Badgers have played was Army, whom they beat 97-42 in the Dartmouth Invitational in 1982.The Air Force Academy is located just outside of Colorado Springs, Colo., and junior guard Jolene Anderson trained in the Centennial State for the past two summers and said the altitude did not affect her. Stone also believes the thin air will not be a factor.Impressive FreshmenThis season, the Badgers have eight new players on their roster — seven freshmen and one junior transfer. It goes without saying that several of these rookies will see some significant playing time this season. Guards Teah Gant and Rae Lin D’Alie have already impressed their coach.Gant was a 2006 McDonald’s High School All-American candidate and a popular recruit. “She’s long; she’s athletic; she’s smart; she’s a player you’ll see a lot of this year,” Stone said of Gant. “Her game continues to grow. She can get to the rim, her outside shot has improved, her free throw shooting is improving. She’s just very, very intelligent.”Conversely, D’Alie seemed to slip under the radar for much of her high school career. She was not highly-recruited, but Stone is extremely thankful to have her donning the cardinal and white. “Size is not an issue to Rae Lin,” Stone said of her 5-foot-3 guard. “She’s defied all of that thus far. She’s certainly been a pleasure. The kid can play. She handles the ball well, she runs her show, she makes good decisions. If [our opponents] try to expose her size defensively, we’ll give her help inside, but right now her ball pressure is one of our best.”She does not play as small as she is.”Question MarksWith as many newcomers as there are on Stone’s squad, there remain several questions about minutes to dish out among several players. Aside from Gant and D’Alie, some of the other freshmen will need to contribute in the near future in order for the team to succeed.Six-foot-1 guard Mariah Dunham has looked promising off the bench — eight points against Winona State — and should earn some minutes in relief of junior starter Janese Banks. Dunham averaged 16.8 points, 12.0 rebounds and six assists per game in high school.Freshman forward Brittany Heins was solid Sunday against the Warriors and should be a serious force in the post along with veteran Danielle Ward and sophomore Caitlin Gibson.Freshman guard Sarah Ingison also played well Sunday and should be a reliable backup at the point guard position, whereas freshman forward Christine Spencer suffered a hip injury and will be sidelined for about two weeks.Anderson, Banks, Ward, Gibson and D’Alie should be the starting five Friday, and despite their youth, Stone is confident in her young squad. “They’re fun to be around,” she said. “They just want to win.”last_img

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