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#20 Marquette Women’s Basketball Cancun Challenge Preview: vs Montana Grizzlies

Losing to Tennessee isn’t that big of a deal, as long as the Golden Eagles come home with at least one win.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Montana v Wisconsin Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It is literally impossible to be upset about how Thursday night went for Marquette.

Three magical free throws from Allazia Blockton with one second left in regulation forced overtime with #12 Tennessee, and Natisha Hiedeman’s late game-winning three-pointer missed, leaving the Golden Eagles with a 101-99 loss against a traditional powerhouse.

Oh well. These things happen.

The Golden Eagles showed that they belong on the same court as a team that seems likely to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament in March. For me, that’s more than enough, at least at this point in the season.

That brings us to the quick turnaround to Friday night’s game, and we have to take that seriously. Losing in overtime to #12 in the country is only okay if you turn around and take care of business against a (sorry about this, Montana, but facts are facts) much lesser opponent.

The other angle on that is, uh, well, Marquette’s non-conference schedule is getting a little bit more stacked up by the day. We knew that Michigan and Notre Dame were looming out there, but Green Bay is starting to earn top 25 votes, and the Golden Eagles are headed up north on December 2nd. As in eight days from now. When the schedule turns up with a game that MU should win, they need to take advantage of that, especially after letting the New Mexico game slip through their fingers.

Game #4: vs Montana Grizzlies (0-4)

Date: Friday, November 24, 2017
Time: 8pm Central
Location: Hard Rock Hotel/Resort in Cancun, Mexico
Streaming: College Sports Live, but you’re going to have to pay for it.
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

This is the first ever meeting between Marquette and Montana. I like when these tournaments give the Golden Eagles a chance to play a team that they’ve never played before. It adds a certain level of mystery and excitement.

Ok, so two years ago, Montana went 20-11 with a 7-4 record in non-conference games. Last year, Montana went 7-23 overall with a 3-8, but there’s kind of a reason for that. Kayleigh Valley blew out her ACL in preseason practice and thus missed the rest of the year. Valley broke the Montana record for points in a season on that 20-11 team, so you’d think that there should be a bit of a return to form for the Grizzlies this season.

Well, they’re 0-4, and on top of it, Valley re-tore her ACL. That sucks.

I will give the Grizzlies credit for this: They’re a pretty solid defensive team. They’re allowing a bit more than a point per possession this season, and they’re clamping down on shooters. Opponents are shooting just .393 from the field against them and just .300 from long range. They’re also playing fairly slowly, averaging just 65 possessions per game.

In theory, Marquette should blow their doors off, both in terms of speed and scoring. While Montana’s defense might trim some of the edges off of the Golden Eagles’ offense, the fact of the matter is that Montana’s offense is bordering on non-existent. They have four players hovering right around 10 points per game, but as a team, they only shoot 34%. Even worse, they’re shooting just 17% from long range. Until someone hits a second three-pointer, all shooters should be completely ignored. No one on the Montana roster has more than four makes this season, which means no one is averaging more than one long distance connection per game. Ignore all shooters, force turnovers like crazy, rebound like a vacuum, leave Mexico with a win.