For the first two years of Carolyn Kieger’s tenure as head coach at Marquette, there hasn’t been a lot of optimism at the start of the season.
The first year, the Golden Eagles were picked to finish seventh in the league. They went on a long losing streak to open Big East play and ultimately failed to live up to the promise of seventh when they ended up as the #8 seed in the conference tournament.
Inbetween Kieger’s first two seasons, the roster was nearly completely gutted by graduations and transfers. That left her with the youngest roster in all of Division 1, and, quite fairly, they were picked to finish ninth. Those freshmen became a force to be reckoned with very quickly, as Allazia Blockton broke the conference’s 21 year old freshman scoring record and the Golden Eagles as a team finished in a tie for fifth place.
Here we are now at the start of year three. Marquette returns every major contributor from last season and are picked to finish third in the Big East. Blockton is a candidate for Big East Player of the Year, and if last year is any indication in the league, a third place finish will put the Golden Eagles back into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.
They have to avoid awful shooting performances like they put up against Minnesota State in their exhibition game, though. They shot just 3-for-21 from long range, and even forcing 25 MSU turnovers didn’t help their cause all that much as a result. MU pulled out the 78-75 win at the end, but the five newcomers on the roster played a combined five minutes in the game. Those newbies will be required to provide the returning players with a breather here and there if Marquette is going to play on into March.
Game #1: vs Longwood (0-0)
When: Friday, November 11, 2016, at 7pm CT
Where: Al McGuire Center
Audio/Visual: GoMarquette.com has the free video stream & there’s live stats.
Special Promotions: Current and former service personnel get in for free in honor of Veterans Day.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
This is the first ever meeting between Marquette and Longwood.
Longwood was probably going to struggle this season one way or another. The Lancers were picked to finish ninth in the 10 team Big South, and there was a clear drop off in the point totals from #8 Campbell at 36 to Longwood at 24.
Things got a little bit more complicated for head coach Bill Reinson just one week ago, when he had to announce that redshirt senior Daeisha Brown had withdrawn from classes and left the team. Brown is one of just three players to have tallied 1,000 points for the Lancers since they made the move to Division 1 in the 2004-05 season. Brown was the leading returning scorer on the team before her departure, going for nine points and three rebounds per game a year ago.
Instead, that mantle now falls to senior forward Eboni Gilliam, who scored 7.6 per game last season. She was also the team’s leading rebounder at 6.7 per contest, so I think it’s safe to say that Marquette’s full defensive attention will be pointed in Gilliam’s direction. With Brown gone, some of the scoring punch might fall to Autumn Childress, a 5’10” guard from Midlothian, Virginia. She didn’t score much last season, but at 37% from three point range, she was a bright spot in the Lancer offense.
Freshman Jada Russell led Longwood in scoring in their lone exhibition game with 15 points, while sophomore Kemari Jones was third behind Gilliam with 12 points.