When this game tips off on Saturday afternoon, Marquette women’s basketball will have been sitting dormant for nearly nine full days.
In their most recent game, the Golden Eagles let a prime opportunity for a big win slip through their hands repeatedly late in their loss to #24 Miami. That was in the Preseason WNIT semifinals, and with no third place game, the Hurricanes visited Iowa State for the championship while Marquette had to sit quietly and wait. That’s the nature of 1) having to leave last Sunday open for the WNIT title game and 2) the Thanksgiving holiday coming up. If you have to schedule for a game taking place on Sunday, you’re definitely not putting a game on Monday, and Tuesday is probably out, too. No one wants to play an on-campus game the night before Thanksgiving, which means that’s out, too.
So here we are. Nine days of mulling over a loss that maybe/probably shouldn’t have happened. Nine days of thinking about letting a chance at an extra entry on the postseason profile slip away. Nine days to prepare for a team that they should probably mow like grass. Nine days to fine tune everything they’re doing with an eye a little bit down the road on what could be four straight games against ranked opponents, depending on how things shake out between now and then, and then five of six against ranked teams.
Marquette got a taste of what it’s going to take to pick up the big wins they need to lock up a great seed in the NCAA tournament in March when they just couldn’t quite get over the hump against Miami. If they’ve figured a thing or two out over the past week-plus, then UIC is in an awful lot of trouble.
Game #5: vs Illinois-Chicago Flames (1-2)
Marquette is 6-5 all time against UIC, and it’s been a one-sided rivalry the whole time. The Flames won the first five games of the series between 1980 and 1986, and then Marquette has won every game since. However, the two teams have not squared off since 1990.
UIC has played two home games and one road game this season, but they haven’t left the state of Illinois. They hosted Valpo (a 75-65 victory) and Loyola-Chicago (a 75-60 loss), while going on the “road” to play Northwestern (an 87-44 loss). This will be their first time outside the state of Illinois, which I’m sure will be a disorienting experience for them, although probably not as disorienting as having to be in Ypsilanti to play Eastern Michigan on Tuesday.
I’m officially declaring Brittany Byrd to be UIC’s leading scorer on the season so far. She’s knocking in 19.3 points per game through three contests, and she’s 8-of-16 from behind the arc. That’s pretty fun. I have to make a declaration on that, though, because Tylah Lampley went for 21 in the season opener against Valparaiso on November 7th, but she hasn’t played since. Will she be back for this one? Is she done for the season with an injury? WHO CAN TELL? Not me, because UIC’s website, like most college sports websites, isn’t particularly helpful when it comes to this kind of thing.
As a team, UIC is shooting 38% from long range on the season, so that’s something that Marquette is going to have to keep an eye on here. However, less than one-third of their shots have come from outside, so while it’s a strength for them, first year head coach Tasha Pointer isn’t leaning on it.
In general, Marquette should be able to swarm the Flames. They’re not a particularly great rebounding team, ranking in the bottom half of the country so far in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate per HerHoopStats.com. They also turn it over on 23% of their possessions, which is bad news for a team that’s going to take on a Carolyn Kieger squad.