It’s not officially a five game homestand kicking off for Marquette on Friday night. They have two home games before heading to Madison for a game against the Badgers, and then it’s back home again for two more games before Big East play starts.
It’s not a schedule stacked with a Murderer’s Row of opponents, although perennial Horizon League favorite UW-Green Bay comes to town next week. What it is, though, is a chance for head coach Carolyn Keiger to drill one thought into her team’s head: We need to make up for the loss to Santa Clara.
The Golden Eagles should be ranked right now. They have wins over two foes that were ranked at the time, and both wins came in a four day stretch. They should be ranked in the current Associated Press poll, but because MU followed up the win over Oregon State with a loss to Santa Clara, a middle of the pack West Coast Conference team, they’re sitting a few spots outside the top 25 instead.
This is a team that should have the NCAA tournament as a clear and attainable goal for this season. If they catch a break or two, they might even be able to win the Big East. But they already know what it’s like to lose a game they had no business losing. That can be motivation for the Golden Eagles going forward, and maybe it’ll even be a bit of a booster rocket for them.
Sadly, we have to officially report that Erika Davenport’s double-double streak to start the season is over. The live stats for the Santa Clara game showed the sophomore from Michigan with 10 rebounds in that game, but the official box score only credited her with nine. She’s sitting on exactly 60 rebounds for the year, though, so Davenport is still averaging a double-double for Marquette.
Game #7: vs Western Illinois (5-2)
Marquette has a 3-1 record against Western Illinois. The Golden Eagles have won each contest in Milwaukee, but lost to the Leathernecks in Macomb back in 1989. The most recent meeting was back in 2014, with MU getting the 65-57 victory.
This year’s edition of the Fighting Leathernecks.... might be good? It’s hard to tell. They were picked to finish sixth in the Summit League this season, but with three different teams getting first place votes, it’s hard to know if sixth is really that far out of the picture. They’re returning six players from a team that won a game in the WBI last year, and if you’re just discovering that there’s a women’s hoops tournament one level below the WNIT, well, join the club. Their first round win in the WBI last year was the first postseason tournament win in WIU basketball history for the men’s or women’s teams, so there’s that then.
On top of what happened last year and their preseason prediction, Western Illinois is off to a 5-2 start, which, admittedly, includes a non-D1 win. They suffered an eight point loss while visiting UW-Milwaukee, then won four straight before dropping a three point heartbreaker at Missouri in their most recent contest. WIU had two chances to tie and force overtime in that game, but both shot attempts clanked off the rim.
This should be a pretty up and down game, as Western Illinois is averaging 78 possessions per game. They’ve got three double-digit scorers, led by Emily Clemens, who averages nearly 21 points per game. The Leathernecks might be a bit up-tempo like Marquette, but they definitely play a different style. Nearly 44% of their shots come from behind the three point line, and they’ve attempted more than twice as many triples as Marquette has this season, albeit in one more game. Their two biggest shooters, Morgan Blumer and Taylor Higginbotham, aren’t very good at it, averaging 33% and 30% respectively, but Clemens and Taylor Hanneman both connect on more than 42% of their tries.
Marquette will need to get Blumer and Higgenbotham under control on the glass as well. Both women average more than six rebounds a game, and as a team, they grab up more than 37% of their own missed shots.