Going into its final regular-season game against Illinois on Sunday, the UW women's basketball team was riding a six-game losing streak, including a two-point loss at previously winless Indiana. First-year head coach Bobbie Kelsey didn't have a particularly motivating speech prepared for her team prior to the Senior Day tipoff.
"When you lose games, there is no message," Kelsey recounted at a press conference Monday. "If you want to win, you will go out and do what you are supposed to do. I didn't have this big old speech. I said, 'If I have to give you words to motivate you, don't play.... Just stay in the locker room.'"
Wisconsin went on to win in inspiring fashion, 72-60, offering a glimmer of hope for the Big Ten tournament. But Badger fans hopeful that Kelsey will make the Badgers a relevant team next season can't take much away from their 9-19 record. Wisconsin showed flashes of competence during the year but was physically outmatched against many opponents and struggled to adapt to a new coach with a different system.
"It was like almost having 12 freshmen in the beginning of the year, it really was," said Kelsey last week. "And I didn't realize that it would be like that."
Wisconsin will miss departing seniors Anya Covington, Jade Davis and Ashley Thomas, who Kelsey proudly admits provided the leadership necessary to achieve buy-in with the younger players recruited by her predecessor, Lisa Stone. And junior Taylor Wurtz and sophomore Morgan Paige, the two most accomplished shooters on the team, will provide a nice foundation to build on for next year, when Kelsey will almost assuredly lean heavily on her first recruiting class.
That means more patience will be demanded from a shrinking fan base that hasn't seen the Badgers win an NCAA tournament game since 1996.