Lisa Stone jokingly said she still carries the reminder of Rae Lin D'Alie's excitement from the University of Wisconsin's upset of Michigan State in last season's Big Ten Tournament.
In a burst of enthusiasm after a series of big plays D'Alie slammed into Stone with a flying chest bump during a timeout that nearly knocked her coach over.
"I think I still have a bruise on my abdomen from that game," Stone said Monday night after the Badgers beat the Spartans for the third consecutive time, 62-54.
While the victory was a rewarding one for the Badgers, the celebration was more restrained. D'Alie said it's part of an altered mind-set, one in which success is an expectation. That's true even if the opponent is ranked 16th in the nation and was picked to finish second in the Big Ten.
"It was just another game, just another opponent," said D'Alie. "That's what we're really striving to do going to the Big Ten this year. If we do what we have to do, then it's no problem for us. But if we start looking at other teams and oh my gosh, this team's got these players ... then we get in a head-fight with ourselves.
"So what we're concentrating on this year is, it's just another opponent. This is a game that we won and we're not that pumped up about it because we know that's the team we want to see every night, that's the team we need to be and we know we can be. That's why we're not all rah-rah right now. We're just chillin'."
UW guard Alyssa Karel provided one of the season highlights with her spinning, up-and-under left-handed scoop shot that helped hold off a Michigan State rally in the closing minutes.
"That was a bit of a circus shot that went in," said Stone.
Karel said she was hoping to find someone to pass to when she began her move, but with the shot clock winding down she was forced to improvise.
"I really think I was just kind of hoping I could find someone open," she said. "I turned around and there was a lane to the basket, so it was like I guess I'll shoot it and I did ... and it went in. I was as surprised as anyone else in the gym. So we'll say it was luck."
While that shot, which gave the Badgers an 11 point lead with less than three minutes remaining, was Karel's most spectacular of the night, it was just part of a spectacular performance on both ends of the court. She finished with 21 points while playing all but one minute of the game.
"Alyssa stays on the court because she plays good defense too," said Stone. "She was on the floor with some tough matchups. She was guarding Kalisha Keane, who's 6-2 and a monster on the block. I think a lot of people look at Alyssa and see she's a fantastic offensive player, but I think she's a very special defensive player as well."
Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant is sold.
"I think she is underrated," Merchant said. "I think she is very, very good. I think she is underrated defensively, I think she is a very good defender. She's very smart, very headsy. I think she is a tremendous talent in terms of playing within the flow.
"She had 21 points, but you wouldn't know she has 21 points because she never forces any shot. She's really good at playing within the flow and taking open shots and honestly when she's open, she's money in the bank. She makes them. Her pullup jump shot is as good as anybody in the league. If you leave her open behind the arc she's going to stick it.
"And the other thing she does is create off the bounce a little bit and gets her post players involved. I think she's a very unselfish player and pretty underrated. She's certainly someone we've had a hard time handling."
Conspicuous by her absence during Michigan State's late rally was 6-foot-9 center Allyssa DeHaan, who went to the bench with 8:38 on the clock and the Spartans trailing 45-31. She never got back in the game as her teammates came back to within four points before the Badgers pulled away in the final moments.
"My intent wasn't to sit Allyssa but we started to make a run and I really thought that Aisha (Jefferson) and Kalisha (Keane) allowed us to press a little bit more - be a little more aggressive on the defensive end," said Merchant. "The problem with Allyssa is that when they play physical like that, it really takes her out of the game.
"She had three turnovers in the post. Everyone had a lot of turnovers obviously. But I was not sending a message to Allyssa as much as I thought we had gotten into a flow and making a little run and I didn't want to sub just to sub. I was just looking for anything that gave us a spark."
DeHaan finished with nine points and two rebounds in 23 minutes of play. She also failed to make any progress up the NCAA's career blocked shot list. DeHaan entered the game tied for third with 446 career blocks, one behind second place Brooke McAfee of IUPUI and 34 behind Sandora Irvin of TCU. She left the game in the same position as she failed to block a shot for the first time this season.
She was, however, involved in a blocked shot, as UW's 5-10 Teah Gant swatted away one of her shots in the final seconds of the first half.
So much for the benefits of playing a tough non-conference schedule.
The Spartans are off to a 0-2 start in the Big Ten despite playing one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country. MSU is the only team to have played three teams ranked in the the Associated Press top 10. The Spartans are 2-1 in those games with victories over No. 4 North Carolina and No. 8 Xavier and a one-point loss to No. 5 Notre Dame.
Add in games against solid teams like Dayton, Oklahoma State, Washington and St. Bonaventure, and Merchant was justifiably confident that her team would be prepared for the Big Ten season.
That's why she was troubled that her team appeared flummoxed by Wisconsin's aggressive, physical defense, which helped force 26 turnovers.
"I think they are very good defensively and were very physical with us and had more effort than we did on the defensive end," Merchant said. "I give them a lot of credit. Twenty-six turnovers is something we should be able to handle, especially with what we've played this season. We've had the hardest schedule in the league. We've had three top-10 teams and the others were 11-0 and had been to postseason. We've played every style possible and in every scenario possible and I just thought Wisconsin played harder and Lisa did a great job getting her team ready for us."