There aren’t many weaknesses to the UW-Whitewater women’s basketball team as it heads into the final week of the regular season.
The No. 4-ranked Warhawks have lost just two games and clinched a share of the WIAC regular season title Saturday. Whitewater has an overall record of 21-2 and is 11-1 in WIAC play with two conference games to go.
“As a coach you’re always looking on improving everything,” UW-Whitewater head coach Keri Carollo said. “I would say, statistically, taking care of the ball a little bit better. It’s going to be something we have to do.
“Then I would say shooting a little bit more consistently. But otherwise, I think we’re in a pretty good place.”
The Warhawks are middle of the pack in the WIAC with a 0.87 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Whitewater is last in 3-point percentage (27.2) and tied for last in 3-pointers made (101).
“It’s just going to be repetition, getting in the gym and getting extra work in,” Carollo said. “Our girls know it’s (3-point shooting) something they have to work on and focus on.
“Shooting is such a streaky thing. It’s just trying to get as many reps in as we can. I feel like at some point the ball is going to start falling in.”
Senior guard Becky Raeder is sixth in the WIAC in 3-point shooting percentage and made 3-pointers with a 36.3 percentage and 37 made attempts, respectively.
“It’s not that we don’t have good shooters—we have really good shooters—they just aren’t falling for us right now,” Carollo added.
Although there may be a few chinks in the Warhawks armor, overall, Whitewater looks pretty ironclad heading into the postseason.
The Warhawks lead the conference in scoring margin by 8.2 points per game. Whitewater is outscoring opponents by 17.4 points per game, while UW-La Crosse is second at 9.2.
Even if the offense runs into some shooting or turnover problems down the stretch of the season and into the postseason, the Warhawks will have a reliable defense to lean on.
The Warhawks are holding opponents to just 51.3 points per game—best in the WIAC—and also boasts the conference’s best defensive field goal percentage (.322).
Junior Johanna Taylor leads the WIAC in blocks by a wide margin. She’s averaged 2.39 rejections per game, next closest in conference is fellow teammate and freshman Abby Belschner with 1.14.
“Defense is something you can always rely on,” Carollo said. “It’s something our team has really bought into, in our philosophy and what we’re trying to get done. That’s greatly important, especially as we get into the postseason and playing in venues we’re not used to.”
Although the Warhawks’ 17.4 points per game margin is impressive, it means Whitewater hasn’t had to endure too many close games. Of the Warhawks’ 23 games this season, only five have been decided by single-digit points.
On Wednesday, Whitewater executed late to beat UW-Platteville, 59-55, on the road.
Carollo is hoping those types of games will give her team the experience needed as the Warhawks head to the home stretch of the regular season and into postseason play.
“Any time you can have a game like that and figure out a way to win, that builds character, confidence and their trust in each other,” Carollo said. “That will definitely help us. We try to simulate that in practice with last-minute situations, but there is nothing like an actual game situation.”
The Warhawks will get two chances to secure the WIAC regular season title outright with games against UW-Oshkosh on Wednesday at home and an away game versus UW-Stout on Saturday.
“We’re not looking past these two teams,” Carollo said. “Oshkosh beat us earlier in the year so I know our team is really motivated.”
Whitewater’s game against UW-Oshkosh on Wednesday also will be Play4Kay night, where the Warhawks will be recognizing cancer survivors and raising money for women’s cancer research.
Postseason play begins Feb. 27 for Whitewater with a WIAC Tournament semifinal game.