Madison, Wisconsin — A young club, no matter what level they are, can be both entertaining and frustrating, sometimes both, for fans and coaches. Their in-game effort, perseverance through tough times and hopefully, in time, their individual and team improvement will translate into more wins than losses.
Last Sunday afternoon two of the nation’s youngest teams faced each other at the Kohl Center. The visiting Minnesota Gophers boast four freshmen and a starting lineup with three true freshmen, a redshirt frosh and a sophomore. The host Badgers have the youngest roster in the last 16 seasons, with a true freshman and a redshirt frosh in its starting lineup.
Sunday’s contest, which featured 17 lead changes and 8 ties, didn’t have the feeling of two bottom feeders. Instead, the two clubs played without giving up an inch to the other.
“Being increasingly proud is an understatement,” declared UW Coach Marisa Moseley to reporters, including the MSR, after her squad’s 81-77 victory, their first this season in Big Ten play. “A great team win. Every single person [contributed].”
This included St. Paul Como Park grad and first-year guard Ronnie Porter, who played almost seven and a half minutes on Sunday and went 3-for-3, including a made three-pointer and a steal, finishing with seven points to lead the Badgers reserves.
“You have to be ready when your number is called,” said Moseley of Porter, a two-time all-state player. “I mentioned to Ronnie a couple of weeks ago, ‘You have been doing a great job.’ Ronnie continues to work her butt off. She embraces her role in everything we do,” said her coach.
Minnesota Coach Lindsay Whalen told the MSR, the only Minnesota media in attendance at Sunday’s game, “Unfortunately [there were] some miscues and execution of some plays that we would like to have back. We battled.
“We were scratching and clawing for every inch,” noted the Gopher coach after the game. Her squad’s 19 turnovers, which UW converted into 27 points, overcame Minnesota’s 48-38 advantage on the boards.
“We got to keep working,” said Whalen.
Both coaches—Moseley in her second year in Madison and Whalen in her fifth season at her alma mater—talked about their respective clubs’ downs and ups this season, especially thus far in conference play.
“We kept saying we are due for a win,” admitted Moseley. “We’ve lost a bunch of close games by single digits.”
Still seeking their second 2022-23 Big Ten victory, Whalen pointed out, “We had a lot of growth, and there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
The Gophers, now 1-4, hope to get their second conference win when they host Rutgers Thursday, Jan. 12 at Williams Arena. The Scarlet Knights, like Minnesota and Wisconsin, are looking to improve their 1-4 league mark.
“Coquese [Washington] is a good coach, a three-time coach of the year,” noted Whalen of the first-year Rutgers coach. “It’s great to have her back in the conference.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.