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Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: at #19 DePaul

It’s not a do-or-die moment for the Golden Eagles, but their regular season title hopes do rest on this one game.

DePaul v Connecticut Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty ImagesI

Big Picture: It doesn’t affect Marquette’s postseason future all that much if they lose to DePaul.

The goal is the NCAA tournament. If they make it, it will be the first appearance for head coach Carolyn Kieger and the first appearance for Marquette since 2011. It’s not a minor task by any stretch. At the moment, or at least by Monday’s moment, ESPN’s Charlie Creme thinks the Golden Eagles are easily in the 64 team field, registering as a #9 seed in his most recent bracketology effort.

Losing to the #19 team in the Associated Press poll on the road isn’t going to be that much of a black mark on MU’s record. DePaul is sitting at #16 in the RPI, and while getting that W on the resume would be great, the loss isn’t going to send the Golden Eagles careening out of the tournament picture.

Tiny Picture: Marquette’s chances at the Big East regular season title are completely dependent on winning this game. If they lose, they have almost zero shot at it.

With eight games played, Marquette is sitting at a respectable 6-2 in league play. If MU repeats that in the second pass through the league, 12-4 against non-DePaul teams is perfectly fine. However, DePaul is 8-0. That two game lead is equalized by one of two things: A) Marquette beating DePaul twice and then running the table against everyone else or B) Marquette losing to DePaul (maybe twice) and then running the table against everyone else while hoping the Blue Demons lose three (or maybe four) times in eight games when they’ve already beaten those teams once.

You can see how it’s not likely that the Blue Demons stumble that many times on the second time through the league schedule. No pressure or anything. No, really. I mean it. In a way, this is Year One of Kieger’s move to unseat Doug Bruno’s Blue Demons from their entrenched spot atop the Big East standings. It’s not a big deal if they don’t do it this year. Like I said above, the NCAA tournament is the goal, and racking up at least six more wins over the next 10 games is the important thing.

The win against DePaul, especially the road win, would be extremely beneficial for Marquette’s postseason outlook. If they don’t get it, they’re still looking good in that regard. It’s just that if they want to hoist that regular season trophy at the end of the year, they have to beat the Blue Demons on Saturday night, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Natisha Hiedeman Watch: Believe it or not, the sophomore from Green Bay needs just three made three-pointers to tie Heidi Bowman for the 12th most in a Marquette career. Hiedeman had 68 a year ago and 48 so far this season gives her 116. Bowman finished her collegiate career with 119. Erin Monfre at #10 with 125 is probably out of range for this weekend. The best part about this? Hiedeman is still about 60 shy of the top 10 for three-point attempts.

McKayla Yentz Watch: The reason why Hiedeman is aiming at 12th is because Yentz is sitting one made triple short of Erin Monfre’s 10th most made three-pointers in program history. Next up: Courtney Weibel at #9 with 135. Yentz’s evolution as a shooter for this team in her 4 year career is quite impressive, as she’s still about 25 attempts short of the top 12 in attempts.

Big East Game #9: at #19 DePaul (16-4, 8-0 Big East)

When: Saturday, January 21, 2017, at 7pm Central
Where: McGrath-Phillips Arena in Chicago, IL
Audio/Visual: The Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go has the free streaming broadcast & there’s live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette has a 22-42 all time record against DePaul. The Blue Demons have won the last seven meetings, eight of the last nine, and 13 of the last 15. Marquette has not defeated DePaul since February 22, 2013, and the Golden Eagles haven’t won in Chicago since January 6, 2007.

Mart’e Grays went down to injury before the season even started. Ashton Millender (13 points, 3 rebounds, 39% 3 point shooting) left the lineup due to shin splints after just nine games and hasn’t returned. Jessica January, the Big East Preseason Player of the Year, broke her finger after 18 minutes of league play.

And yet, somehow, the Blue Demons are 8-0 in the Big East and have suffered just four losses all year, all to top 40 RPI teams, and three of them came away from Lincoln Park.

So, yeah. They’re still really good.

Brooke Schulte has been a hero for the Blue Demons. She’s been Big East Player of the Week each of the past two weeks and three times in the past four weeks. Schulte’s averaging 22 points, six rebounds, four assists, and a steal through the first eight games of Big East play. The only flaw in the Germantown, Illinois, native’s game is the fact that she’s shooting 21% on three-pointers and she shoots more than two per game.

January was averaging 6.6 assists per game when she went out, and that includes racking up five helpers in just 18 minutes against Georgetown before breaking her finger. You don’t average nearly 21 assists per game without everyone sharing the ball well, though, and that has paid off with January out of the lineup. Three Blue Demons are averaging more than three assists per game in Big East play, and Amarah Coleman is just barely short of that mark at 23 in eight games. It’s impressive to see them rebalancing the offense without January’s distribution ability by becoming even more unselfish.

Even with Schulte’s impressive performances, she’s not alone out there. Including her, four players are averaging at least 10 points per game, and Jacqui Grant might present Marquette’s biggest problem. The fact of the matter is that Schulte is a 5’9” guard. Marquette has players that can defend her. Grant, who is averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds in conference games, is a 6’3” forward. The biggest difficulty in defending Grant will be keeping track of her on the floor. While her stats make her look like a power player inside, she’s also comfortable stepping outside and shooting. Nearly 40% of Grant’s shots in Big East games have been from behind the arc, and she’s connecting at a 37% rate, well above her season long number of 32%.