MILWAUKEE, Wis. (July 21, 2011) - Home games with Wisconsin and Michigan State and games at national powers Baylor and Oklahoma highlight the 2011-12 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women’s basketball schedule head coach Sandy Botham released today.
The Panthers open the regular season hosting Wisconsin Nov. 11 and host Michigan State 11 days later. December features a Big XII road trip that will see Milwaukee take on Baylor Dec. 8 in Waco, Texas, and Oklahoma three days later in Norman. The Bears made the Final Four last season, while the Sooners made the Sweet 16 after opening the season at the Klotsche Center.
UWM also hosts WNIT Champion Toledo on Dec. 18 in its final non-league contest before Horizon League play begins.
Overall, Milwaukee plays six of its 11 non-league games against post-season teams from a season ago, including five opponents that won at least 23 games.
“We have another challenging schedule for this young Panther team,” Botham said. “Each game is as important as the next, but I know our players and staff are very excited to open the season at home versus Wisconsin, to have Michigan State at the Klotsche Center, as well as travel to play a preseason No. 1 team in Baylor and All-American Britney Griner.”
The Panthers take on Wisconsin in the season opener at the Klotsche Center. The Badgers played in the WNIT last season, advancing to the second round. Milwaukee plays its first road game of the season Nov. 18 at Drake, before returning home to host Michigan State Nov. 22. UWM fell to the Spartans, 55-48, last season in East Lansing. MSU finished the season with a 27-6 record, advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and was ranked No. 12 in the final AP poll of the season.
“It is not often that BCS teams will travel to play, so we’re excited with the fact that we will have two Big Ten teams coming to our cozy confines of the Klotsche Center,” Botham said. “It also gives our Milwaukee community the opportunity to travel a short distance to see our team compete against Big Ten opponents. We hope they come in masses, make a ton of noise and cheer us on to victory!”
A three-game road trip follows, as Milwaukee takes on Western Illinois Nov. 26 and Bradley Nov. 28 before opening December at Western Michigan on the Dec. 3. The Panthers hosted both WIU and Bradley last season.
UWM’s final non-league road games could prove to be its toughest, as the Panthers swing through the south Dec. 8-11. Baylor went 34-3 last season and finished in the top five of the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ Poll. The Bears fell to National Champion Notre Dame in the national semifinals. Oklahoma also fell to UND, in the Sweet 16, finishing the season with 23 wins and ranked 15th.
“We play teams like Baylor and Oklahoma, two top Big XII teams, to give our players the opportunity to compete and beat the very best in the country,” Botham said. “More importantly, these contests will help to prepare our team for the Horizon League and NCAA Tournament play.”
Milwaukee gets ready for Horizon League play with a pair of return games from last season to start a five-game homestand. The Panthers host Chicago State Dec. 15 and Toledo. CSU won 24 games and advanced to the semifinals of the Women’s Basketball Invitational. Meanwhile, the Rockets went 29-8 and held off a furious Panther comeback in a 63-59 win in Ohio last season. In that game, UWM overcame an 18-point, second-half deficit to lead in the final moments before falling.
The Panthers play one more non-league contest, hosting Seattle University on Feb. 1. UWM traveled to Seattle in 2009-10 to play in the Redhawks’ Thanksgiving Tournament, defeating South Alabama before falling to SeattleU in the de facto title game.
League play kicks off the weekend of Dec. 29-31 when Loyola and UIC come to town. A Jan. 7 matchup then follows with defending league champion Green Bay. The Phoenix went 34-2 last season, advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16 before falling to Baylor. The team finished the season ranked No. 9 in the ESPN/USA TodayCoaches’ Poll. The return trip in the home-and-home series with GB is Feb. 4.
“The Horizon League was ranked 14th in Conference RPI this past season, one of the highest we’ve earned in the time that I’ve been at Milwaukee,” Botham said. “Consequently, it will be another competitive season for our Panthers. We will need to work hard and prepare with consistency to compete at the top of the League.”
Milwaukee returns four starters from last season, including Horizon League Newcomer of the Year Angela Rodriguez and Sami Tucker. The Panthers get their season underway Nov. 5, hosting Division II Lewis University in an exhibition game at the Klotsche Center.