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Marquette Women's Basketball Preview: at Wake Forest & at #7 Duke

It's going to be a long weekend in North Carolina for coach Carolyn Kieger and her troops.

Elizabeth Williams had 23 points on 11-15 shooting against Marquette last season.
Elizabeth Williams had 23 points on 11-15 shooting against Marquette last season.
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette women's basketball opened the season by splitting two home games.  First, a big loss to a UW-Green Bay team that's inching towards the top 25, then a grind it out 15 point win over Loyola-Chicago.  Things go back to the difficult end of the spectrum this weekend as the Golden Eagles travel to North Carolina to take on two ACC foes.  Based on preseason polls, one game will be much more difficult than the other, but given Marquette's relative inexperience (and there's a phrase I'm going type a lot this year for both men's and women's hoops), neither game will be particularly simple.

Marquette's two biggest struggles in their first two games have been turnovers and three point shooting.  They totalled more than 20 turnovers in both contests, which is a recipe for a game long struggle.  Behind the arc, Marquette is shooting just 29% as a team. Arlesia Morse has taken a heavy majority of the shots for the Golden Eagles, and while her 4-12 mark isn't great, she's actually dragging the average upwards.  Kenisha Bell and McKayla Yentz are a combined 0-6 right now, and that's not even getting into the 0-2 that the 6'5" Chelsie Butler is carrying around.

Game #3: at Wake Forest (2-0)

When: Friday, November 21, 2014, at 5pm Central
Where: LJVM Coliseum in Winston-Salem, NC
Audio/Visual: Paid video, but free live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

The Demon Deacons were picked to finish 11th by both a vote of the ACC's coaches.  They're coming off of a 15-16 season, which included a 5-11 record in league games and a 90-71 loss to Marquette in non-conference action.  In that game, Wake had three players that scored more than four points, and they return two of them: Dearica Hamby, who was recognized as a preseason all-ACC selection, and Ataijah Taylor.  Marquette seized control of last year's contest with an 18-3 run to open the second half.  Apiew Ojulu had eight of MU's points in that run, so perhaps she can get something going against the Demon Deacons this year as well.

They've started this season off with two home wins.  First, they squeaked past Longwood, 64-60.  Wake led by as many as 12 early in the second half, but the Lancers fought their way back in to trail by three with two minutes left before sputtering out.  Kandice Ball had 12 points and 13 rebounds in that one, while sophomore Jill Brunori had nine points and a game high 17 rebounds.  In the second game of the season, the Demon Deacons rolled to an 89-62 win.  Hamby made her season debut, recording 20 points and 12 rebounds.

Game #4: at #7 Duke (2-0)

When: Sunday, November 23, 2014, at 1pm Central
Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, NC
Audio/Visual: Paid audio, but free live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Ok, deep breath, y'all.  Like the Wake game, this one's also a return match from the Al McGuire Center last season.  That game was competitive up until the now-graduated Katherine Plouffe picked up her second foul 11 minutes in.  That allowed the Blue Demons to start creating some space, pushing the lead to nine at the half.  The Golden Eagles kept it within single digits in the early part of the second half, but eventually they were overwhelmed the the Blue Demons.  Final margin: 78-61, which made it the most competitive game that Duke had played through five games last season.

This one probably won't be as close, although Duke returns just one of the four players who scored in double figures in that game.  The lone returner is Elizabeth Williams, who happens to have been the game's high scorer.  With that said, Duke was picked to finish second in the ACC behind Notre Dame this season.  That's not a knock on Duke, though, as Notre Dame got all of the coaches' votes except for the one from Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw, who cast hers for the Blue Devils.  Williams is Duke's lone representative on the 10 player all-ACC team, but both redshirt freshman guard Rebecca Greenwell and freshman guard/forward Sierra Calhoun were recognized on the ACC coaches' Newcomer Watch List.

Duke opened the season with two wins on the road, and as can be the case in the vagaries of women's basketball, the team from Conference USA gave them a harder time than the team from the SEC.  Duke obliterated Alabama 90-40 in their opener, taking a ten point lead after just 5:15, and blowing it out to 20 points before 10 minutes had elapsed.  When Alabama finally broke the 10 point barrier, it cut the lead to 31.  Not joking.  Then, last night in Norfolk, Duke clung to a five point halftime lead against Old Dominion before finally pulling away for an 82-66 win.  Williams led the way with 22 points, while Ka`lia Johnson assembled the seventh triple double in Duke history, recording 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists.