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Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: at UW-Milwaukee

The Golden Eagles make the crosstown jaunt in their third of four straight matches away from the McGuire Center.

NCAA Round One: Oklahoma University Sooners v University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers
mmmmm.... 13 year old picture
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Officially, Sunday afternoon will be the third straight road game for Marquette women’s basketball However, it’s the easiest of MU’s run of seven out of eight away from the McGuire Center. Megan Duffy’s crew will wake up in their own beds and go to sleep in their own beds, and only a quick bus jaunt to the east side is necessary to get them ready for this game.

It will also be Marquette’s last game for a nine day stretch, thanks to Finals Week starting the next day. The Golden Eagles came out of their Thanksgiving weekend tournament in California with two hard fought wins — one more so than the other, shouts to Isabelle Spingola’s first two free throws of the season — to move themselves to 6-2 on the season. They’ve acquitted themselves very nicely this season in the face of a coaching change and a wholesale roster change, with both losses having obvious “yeah, well” explanations that make you not worry all that much about them.

The long stretch with so few home games is partly because the Golden Eagles were prepared for Ryan Theis’ volleyball team to need the McGuire Center over the weekend — maybe even this weekend and the next — but the looming Big East schedule isn’t helping either with three straight road contests to start things off. While Marquette’s strong start to the season is a good sign for what’s to come, this road stretch of games may end up being even more beneficial. The young and inexperienced Golden Eagles will have to get used to travel and unfamiliar surroundings while still continuing to put their best foot forward and push towards a postseason possibility that’s looking more and more likely by the game. There’s bound to be hiccups, sure, but if they apply the lessons that they’ve learned in their first eight games of the season, there might not be that many of them.

Game #9: at Milwaukee Panthers (3-5)

Date: Sunday, December 8, 2019
Time: 4pm Central
Location: Klotsche Center, Milwaukee, WI
Streaming Video: ESPN3/WatchESPN
Streaming Audio: Mixlr.com
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 30-19 all time against Milwaukee. The Golden Eagles have won seven in a row in the series after last year’s 83-74 victory as well as 18 of the last 19 dating back to 1992.

Thanks to pulling away in the fourth quarter on Thursday night for a 78-65 win over Northern Illinois, Milwaukee is now 3-5 on the year. Well, officially they’re 3-5. One of those wins was an overtime home win over UW-Parkside which, last we checked, is not a Division 1 team. In terms of games that you’d like to think are relatively comparable to Marquette, UWM has lost by 13 at Purdue, by 16 at Minnesota, by 31 at Wisconsin, by 29 at DePaul (which was ranked at the time), and by 28 at Columbia. Okay, maybe that last one isn’t a direct comparison to Marquette (except academically, of course, but then again, the Lions did also beat Georgetown, and that’s something we’d like to see Marquette do this season.

Anyway, the point is that UWM might not be very good, but this is on their court in their building, and they are in fact actually undefeated there this season. So keep that in mind.

With that said, Marquette does hold some significant advantages in this game. Most notably, MU shoots the ball really well (#35 in the country in effective field goal percentage according to HerHoopStats.com) and defends shooters about as well (#62 in eFG% on the defensive end). Meanwhile, UWM...… not so much. The Panthers have an eFG% on the season of just 43.4% (#207 in the country) and teams knock down shots all over the place against them. Their defensive eFG% of 47.4% (it’s bad when your offensive number is lower than your defensive number, obvs) ranks #257 in the country.

This disparity between the two gets slightly more important when you realize that UWM is playing at a much faster tempo than Marquette this season. The Golden Eagles are one of the slower teams in the country this year, coming in at just under 70 possessions per game, while the Panthers are just outside the top 100 at about 74 per contest. You can see why Milwaukee would want to get more shots into a game — more shots makes their misses less important — but when a team like Marquette is so much better at shooting the ball, all that does is start to blow the margin apart a bit.

Even with the speed, Milwaukee is only averaging 62.3 points per game this season, and as such, they don’t have a double digit scorer on the roster right now. With that said, they do have six women averaging between six and nine points per game, and that kind of feed the hot hand type of style can make it hard to prepare a defensive gameplan. Three of those six women — Jamie Reit, Sydney Levy, and Lizzie Odegard — are willing to let if fly from behind the arc, and that’s something that Marquette will have to keep an eye on. Levy is the big worry, as she leads the team in three-point attempts and is hitting 45% of her tries. The 5’8” sophomore from Oshkosh hit eight of her 12 long range attempts in their win over Northern Illinois last time out, which 1) is amazing and 2) accounts for 32% of her attempts on the year. Marquette can not afford to let her get comfortable behind the arc the way that the Huskies did.

This game ultimately may be decided not by how many shots Marquette puts in, but by how many second chances they get. Offensive rebounding is something of a strength for MU so far this year, grabbing up nearly 36% of their misses, which ranks 90th in the country according to HHS. However, UWM’s defensive rebounding rate is 50th best in the country. Lizzie Odegard, a 6-foot senior from Minnesota, is in the HHS top 130 in defensive rebounding rate, and averages 5.6 per game on that ends. Marquette has a series of post players that they can throw at Odegard to neutralize her ability to end possessions, but MU’s best counter to that, of course, is to just put the ball in the net.