The Marquette Golden Eagles will be in Ann Harbor Michigan tonight for their contest against the #24 ranked Michigan Wolverines. This is another opportunity for Marquette to get a win against a ranked opponent. They already let one slip away against #11 Tennessee and their loss against Green Bay propelled the Phoenix into the top 25 just ahead of Michigan at #23. This is a pivotal moment for the Golden Eagles to prove to themselves and the rest of the nation that they deserve to be back in the top 25. MU is currently just outside the rankings in an unofficial 29th position receiving 13 votes.
Game #8: at #24 Michigan Wolverines (6-2)
Date: Thursday, December 7, 2017
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Crisler Center, Ann Harbor, MI
Streaming: BTN Plus, but it will cost you $10 for a month of Michigan viewing
Streaming Radio: MGoBlue.com (Michigan broadcast)
Live Stats: Sidearm
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Michigan is technically only a few spots ahead of Marquette, but they are a much better team than what the rankings indicate. Their only two losses have come to #3 Notre Dame and #5 Louisville, although they did lose both games by 20 or more points. This shows how separated the top five teams are from the rest of the pack more than anything. Just like Marquette, Michigan scheduled a very tough non-conference and hasn’t been able to get a key win. That’s why this game is the most important game for Marquette thus far, because it has major implications on where they might end up come March.
Just how good are the Wolverines? For starters, despite those two big losses, they are still outscoring opponents by an average of 11 points per game. They are shooting 46% from the field, which is the same as Marquette. More importantly, the Wolverines are only allowing opponents to shoot 37%. They are also out-rebounding opponents by an average of eight per game. In their last game against Detroit Mercy, they scored 46 points in the paint. It was a significantly weaker opponent, but defense down low will be something coach Carolyn Kieger will stress I’m sure.
Where can Michigan be exploited? Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. They committed 20 against a terrible Detroit Mercy side and are averaging 17 per game this season. Well what do you know... Marquette’s coming off a game where they had 17 steals and forced 22 turnovers. I want to see the Golden Eagles provide some full-court pressure and see if they can force giveaways early in the game. There’s no better way to frustrate a team than to take the ball away from them early and often. Another area that the Wolverines aren’t great in is 3-point shooting. They are at 35% this year which isn’t terrible but it also isn’t something that MU will have to worry about.
This game will really come down to how well Marquette can defend Michigan’s two best players. Senior Katelynn Flaherty and junior Hallie Thome are the only Wolverines averaging double-digit points with 23 and 17 respectively. If they can hold both of these players under 15 points I think MU will have a great chance to win this game. The Golden Eagles will have to continue their hot shooting as well. Natisha Hiedeman might not pop off for 26 again but I want to see her take control of this game, specifically finding ways to get her teammates involved in the attack. She has done pretty well with that this season but only dished out three helpers against Wisconsin.
The advantage Marquette has is the many options it has on the attack. I just mentioned Hiedeman but Allazia Blockton, Amani Wilborn, Danielle King, and Lauren Van Kleunen can all put up big numbers on any given night. All of them are averaging double-digit scoring this year. Ideally, Marquette will get all these players heavily involved and be able to get through the tricky Wolverine defense. I think this will be the game that sets the tone for the rest of Marquette’s season. With a win, they will likely hop back in the top 25 (given they beat 6-3 Army on Sunday), but more importantly, they will have gotten a quality road win against a ranked opponent that will stand out come March. However, if they lose, they will likely fall out of the receiving votes category and will be probably be hovering around .500 heading into conference play. A loss against Michigan and all the sudden the Notre Dame game on December 20 doesn’t look too good.
All that being said, this is a winnable game for Marquette if they can limit Flaherty and Thome and combine that with their lethal attack that we’ve seen many times this season.