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Marquette Women's Basketball Preview: at Northern Kentucky

Thus begins the crucible.

At 0-2 on the season, it's probably not the best time for Marquette to embark on a four game trip away from the McGuire Center, but that's what we've got.  Starting with Saturday's contest against the Norse, continuing with Monday's quick turn around trip to South Dakota, and then the following weekend's expedition to Florida International for a holiday tournament, we're going to get a prime opportunity to see if Marquette can bond together and start turning into the team that head coach Carolyn Kieger wants to see.

It might not mean wins, and maybe that's okay.  With eight freshmen on the roster, Marquette needs at least three of them on the court at all times.  There's going to be mistakes and struggles, and that's fine.  But there needs to be improvement.  Four players can not foul out like they did against IUPUI.  Amani Wilborn, Danielle King, and Shantelle Valentine can not continue to average over three turnovers a game.  Something must be done about Olivia Moskari's 0-8 stretch from behind the arc (and that's overall, too) to start the season.  As a team, Marquette needs to figure out a way to shoot better than the 34% than they're averaging so far this season.

None of that might lead to wins.  That's fine.  Just improve.  Grow together.

Game #3: at Northern Kentucky (2-1)

When: Saturday, November 20, 2015, at 12pm Central
Where: BB&T Arena in Highland Heights, KY
Audio/Visual: This one's going to be on ESPN3 and WatchESPN, plus there's live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

You might remember the Norse from such games as last year's game at the McGuire Center.  NKU won 77-68, but as you might guess, Marquette only returns one player that scored in that game.  Christine Roush did the most damage on the scoreboard for Northern Kentucky in that game, scoring 29 points on 9-20 shooting and 5-13 behind the arc.  She's back again this season as a senior, averaging a team high 19.3 points and isn't too bad on the glass either at 6.3 rpg.

Rebecca Lyttle is the Norse leader in rebounding, and she's a newcomer to the team after sitting out last season as a transfer from Michigan.  Lyttle is averaging 10.7 rebounds per game, and she's just as dangerous on the offensive glass (14 OReb) as she is on the defensive end (18 DReb).  Rianna Gayheart, who played 32 minutes off the bench for the Norse last year against MU, is leading the team in assists, dishing 4.3 helpers every night.

This will be Marquette's second game against a team in the Horizon League after opening with a loss to UW-Green Bay.  NKU was picked to finish eighth in the 10 team league, although the mix of teams in the middle is tightly packed.  Teams 4-8 finished within 50 points of each other in the balloting, which had 31 people submitting votes.  NKU is coming off of their first loss of the season, a 71-68 loss to neighboring Cincinnati.  It was a tight contest, with a triple from Gayheart knotting it at 68 with just under two minutes remaining.  Northern Kentucky had opened the season with a road win over Miami (OH) and a home opener win over Indiana State.  While they beat the RedHawks by 14 in their opener, the last two games have been close, so there's no reason to think that NKU will wilt under pressure if it comes to that at the end.