Junior guard Alyssa Karel and the Wisconsin Badgers will look to avoid another late-season collapse after a strong start to the Big Ten season.[/media-credit]Now that everyone’s finally grown accustomed to dating their checks 2010 instead of 2009, it’s a good time to peer back a calendar year and evaluate, for, as George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”And if the clock is flipped back to January 2009 for the Wisconsin women’s basketball team, one will discover an identical 13-4 mark heading into the team’s 18th game and the heart of Big Ten conference play.One also will discover that at that juncture in the ’08-’09 season, the team began a slide that saw them lose eight of their next 10 contests, including a five-game losing streak that essentially dashed any NCAA tournament hopes.So, considering this time around’s the cast of characters — with five returning starters, only two lost letterwinners and just three freshmen — is mostly the same, how does the team prevent duplicating the ’09 mid-January slump?“We have a different mentality this year,” Rae Lin D’Alie, the team’s senior point guard and leader in assists and steals, said. “This year, we understand what needs to be done to win. And we knew it last year, but this year we understand it — it’s a totally different thing.“You can know a lot of things but when you really understand them, it’s a different story because you’re willing to put in the work; you’re willing to put in what needs to be done in order to get those wins.”“[Last year’s collapse] has come up in conversations, but I think this year we just need to be more mentally tough,” Teah Gant, D’Alie’s lone fellow senior and a team tri-captain, said. “I think that’s what we lacked last year is we’d get through an hour of practice and be mentally drained and not into it. So that’s definitely one thing we’ve been focusing on this year.”Although the squad has produced a similar start to both of the past two seasons, the differences in how the 13-4 records were reached are crucial.Statistically speaking, head coach Lisa Stone’s team has gotten better across the board by shooting the ball better at the free throw line, from distance and from the field; rebounding at a higher rate; and, most importantly, improving in scoring and scoring defense.Moreover, the 2009 team did not feature freshman sensation Taylor Wurtz, who is fifth on the team in scoring and fourth in rebounding.While the majority of the current roster was around to experience last year’s travails and learn from them, the team would do well to focus last year’s slide, if only to remind them of the rigors of Big Ten play.“It’s just a totally different season,” Gant said. “Everyone wants to be at the top of their league and end their season on a good note and get into the NCAA tournament, so that becomes more of a focus as it comes down to conference play.“It’s just a lot more physical, a lot more mental. … In the beginning of the season, everybody’s really excited to play and get some games under their belts, but when it gets down toward the end, it comes down to the mental aspect and just staying focused the entire time.”It also is notable that with five road tests remaining before the team enters tournament play, , last year’s team limped to a 1-8 road conference mark. Thus far, three of the Badgers’ four losses have occurred away from the Kohl Center’s friendly confines.“Everybody would much rather play at home,” D’Alie said. “For us, though, we get caught up in that sometimes. We get caught up in who’s winning what and what’s our record and what’s our record on the road — where we’re best when we just play basketball, when we just play together.“I think the more we can take the focus off that and the more we can focus on ourselves and reaching our max potential then [the rest] will just fall right in.”And the rest will be history — whether or not a repeat is up to them.