The #23 Marquette Golden Eagles will travel two hours north to play the Green Bay Phoenix Saturday afternoon. After coming off the largest margin of victory in program history, MU’s schedule will get considerably harder starting with a difficult match-up against the Phoenix who are sitting just outside the top 25 receiving 31 votes in the AP poll. This will be a great opportunity for the Golden Eagles to win three in a row after alternating wins and losses in their first four games. It’s hard to bet against the Golden Eagles right now considering their 62 point blowout victory over Loyola Chicago on Tuesday.
What’s working for the Golden Eagles so far? Their ability to move the ball around and get multiple players involved in the attack has been a strength for them thus far. They’ve had at least four double-digit scorers in every game and are shooting 47% from the field as a team. That mark is tied for first in the Big East. They are also second in scoring offensive to DePaul with 89.6 per game. More fun stats going Marquette’s way: They are first in the Big East in rebounds grabbed with 42.4 per game and have the best rebounding margin at +6.6. All that’s led to strong outings from the Golden Eagles (except for the opener against New Mexico) where they’ve looked every bit like a top 25 team.
What are some areas of improvement for the Golden Eagles? For starters, their three-point shooting has been a tad worse than expected. They are shooting 37% from behind the arc which is average and rank 4th in the Big East. I expect them to pick it up in this department especially considering the weapons they have at their disposal. We all know what Natisha Hiedeman can do from long-range (though she’s had an up and down start to the year from 3-point distance). The emergence of Lauren Van Kleunen has been very helpful for the MU offensive as she can shoot threes as well as take it inside. More importantly, however, the Golden Eagles need to sturdy up their defense. I’ll admit it is difficult when you play so up-tempo to avoid giving up baskets on the other end. Giving some up going the other way is just inevitable. But they rank second to last in the Big East in field goal percentage defense at 40% a game, which is somehow unacceptable (the rank) yet seemingly pretty good (I wish the men’s team only gave up 40% per game).
Buuuuut they are coming off a game where they only gave up 30 points so hopefully this is a turning point for their defense and not just an indicator of a very long and exhaustingly disappointing season for Loyola.
Let’s now turn to look at how Green Bay has played so far this season.
Game #6: at Green Bay Phoenix (5-1)
Date: Saturday, December 2, 2017
Time: 1pm Central
Location: Kress Center, Green Bay, WI
Video Streaming: ESPN3/WatchESPN
Audio Streaming: 1440 AM WNFL (NOTE: UWGB broadcast)
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
The Green Bay Phoenix started their year with five straight wins including a victory over then #24 Arizona State. The lost in their most recent outing to #7 ranked Mississippi State 67-46. Now, it was probable that they would lose against a very good Bulldogs side, but 20 point losses never look good on the resume. In spite of this, their strength of schedule has been pretty darn good early in the season and are ranked 11th in the nation in the BennettRank. This game has the potential to be as close as the Tennessee game because of how good both teams have looked this season.
Leading the way for the Phoenix is senior Jessica Lindstrom that’s averaging 13.5 points per game. This pales in comparison to the 19.4 points per game that Allazia Blockton is averaging but it’s still decent. The only other player averaging double digits is Allie LeClaire with 11. Just to continue comparing because that’s always fun, MU has SIX players averaging double-digit points thus far. Green Bay’s defense has been somewhat decent this year only allowing 43.8 points per game. So you got to give credit where credit is due. Part of that is pace, though, as the Phoenix are averaging merely 64 possessions per game. We will have to see if Marquette will be capable of speeding them up north of 75 as Carolyn Kieger would prefer to see.
Green Bay also has a top 25 win under their belt by beating then #24 Arizona State rather convincingly 61-48. You could call that luck or maybe Mississippi State is just that good (the second one is more likely) but the Phoenix are fresh off a 21 point loss. One of two things can happen: either they come out hungry looking to make-up for the tough loss, or they come out flat and the Arizona State game was just a one time deal. If you want me to lay odds on it, I’m going with the first one. Green Bay has won 19 straight Horizon League regular season titles and they’ve been the preseason favorite for each of the last 10 years, including this season. They’re no stranger to pressure nor performing under it.
Either way, Marquette needs play just like they did against Loyola Chicago (if not better) to prove to themselves and the nation that they are for real. I think this game will feature runs by both teams. It sounds simple, but the team that makes the clutch shots down the stretch will come out on top.