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Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: vs Cincinnati

The Golden Eagles welcome the Bearcats to the McGuire Center to wrap up non-conference action for the year.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 04 UCF at Cincinnati Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Sunday’s outing against Seton Hall was not good.

I mean, sure, 34 minutes of it was fine. Mostly fine at least. It’s hard to argue with playing a team picked ahead of you in the conference standings in the preseason poll to a standstill in their building. That’s what Marquette women’s basketball did with the Pirates. Sure, the shooting wasn’t great, and they turned it over a little too much, and could have rebounded their misses a little better.

But tied with 9 minutes to play? Not too bad at all. +4 on the Pirates in the other 34 minutes all told? Again, pretty good.

The six minutes where Seton Hall blasted off 16 straight points and handed Marquette a loss? Bad.

At the end of the day, it was a road game against one of the three teams picked in front of MU in the preseason poll. The end result — a loss — isn’t a problem. How they got there, that’s a problem for head coach Megan Duffy and her staff, that’s for sure.

They’ve got some time to work on that, though. Wednesday afternoon’s game is the final non-conference game of the season, and from a glance at the NCAA’s NET calculation and Her Hoop Stats’ predictive model.... well.... Marquette should be able to hammer out whatever problems that the Pirates threw at them. After Wednesday, there’s not another game for a week thanks to Christmas on Saturday. That’s a lot of time to dig through the tape and make adjustments.

It’s probably really important that Marquette make those adjustments right out of the gate, too. I don’t want to freak anyone out, but MU’s first game after the break? At Connecticut. That would normally be a rough patch to say the least, but with Paige Bueckers on the shelf, the Huskies are going to come into that game with something to prove..... but it’s also a legitimate chance for Marquette to play their best basketball of the season and swipe a win.

But that means playing a lot better than they did against Seton Hall. Figuring out how to do that starts on Wednesday afternoon at the Al.

Game #12: vs Cincinnati Bearcats (7-4, 0-0 AAC)

Date: Wednesday, December 22, 2021
Time: 1pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloHoops, with Patrick Reed and Megan McKeown on the call
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 23-13 all time against Cincinnati. Last year’s hastily scheduled contest down in Ohio was the first meeting between the two teams since 2013. After last year’s win, Marquette has now won three of the last four games in the series, and the Golden Eagles are 12-5 all time in Milwaukee against the Bearcats.

Cincinnati comes into this game on a three game winning streak after a loss to Ole Miss moved them to .500 on the year at 4-4. They have a fascinating resume so far this season, as they’ve lost all four games that they’ve played against NET top 100 opponents, including a pair of demolitions on the road against top 25 foes Ohio State and Utah. Meanwhile, all seven of Cincinnati’s wins have come against sub-200 opponents, which includes a home date against Xavier that kicked off their current three game winning streak.

The Bearcats are led this season by junior guard Akira Levy. The 5’7” guard is on her third stop in college basketball after starting at Missouri and then transferring to Vanderbilt before winding up with the Bearcats. In any case, she’s averaging 14.6 points per game to lead the squad, and shooting 37% behind the arc is really helping her out there. Levy is also tops on the team in assists by a wide margin, dishing out 6.2 helpers per game. That’s good enough to rank #12 in the country in assist rate according to Her Hoop Stats.

Jillian Hayes is the other big name to know. The 6’1” guard from Ohio is second on the team in scoring at 11.3 per game and the only other player after Levy to average at least 10 points a game. She’s also leading the team in rebounding at 6.5 per game. That’s just fine, but Hayes’ rates per HHS aren’t anything spectacular.

“Not spectacular” could be used to describe Cincinnati’s rebounding in general. Marquette will have a notable advantage in this department all game long as Her Hoop Stats ranks the Bearcats in the 200s in both offensive and defensive rebounding rates. Cincinnati does get good work on the glass from Malea Williams, but she’s only averaging 16 minutes a game, and that’s mostly off the bench this season.

Defending the Bearcats will be an interesting proposition. Caitlyn Williams leads UC in three-point attempts this season, and the 5’11” junior pretty much only shoots threes. She’s also really bad at it, connecting on just 25%. Williams plays just 17 minutes a game, and she mostly comes off the bench. However, UC’s next three most likely shooters — Levy, Williams, and Braylyn Milton — are all north of 35% on the year. They can hit it if they get quality looks..... but Cincinnati is almost as uninterested in shooting three-pointers as the Golden Eagles are with both teams ranking in the 300s in three-point attempt rate. So on one hand, MU doesn’t really have to worry about the shooters.... but on the other hand, they really have to worry about the shooters.