After a 2-0 start (and that was shaky on Sunday) to Big East play, Marquette women’s basketball wanders back out into non-conference action this week.
This is the by product of the league going to a 20 game schedule and having the women’s conference tournament go the week before the men. That’s one less week to get games in, so the 20 Big East games have to go somewhere. As such, Marquette has to schedule their non-conference play around when the league says they play, and that’s how we get what we get.
I think it’s kind of nice, although probably imperfect, to go in and out like this. It gives Marquette a chance to measure where they’re at against teams they know they’ll see again this season, and then turn around and apply what they’ve learned to going forward. Would I think differently if Marquette was 0-2 instead of 2-0? Yeah, probably! That sounds an awful lot like “MU DIDN’T GET ENOUGH RUN UP TO SHAKE OUT THE KNOCKS AND PINGS!” to me.
But they are 2-0, and Sunday’s win over Butler showed one of those knocks and/or pings pretty clearly.
Marquette’s not a great shooting team. They haven’t been all year, ranking just #123 in two-point shooting percentage and #193 in three-point shooting percentage, according to Her Hoop Stats. Things went really sideways on MU on Sunday, as they converted just 29.9% of their shots form the field. They caught a massive break in the form of Butler committing a whole mess of fouls to let MU score points with the clock stopped as well as the Bulldogs letting 26 possessions — nearly 40% of the entire game — end with them handing Marquette the ball in one way or another.
I don’t want to say that’s just great defense by Marquette, because Butler is winless on the year, but Marquette has been winning with defense more than anything else so far this season. Then again, with their shooting struggles, they kind of have to win with defense. I don’t know how much longer MU can hold on to a top 25 effective field goal percentage defense (they’re #25 exactly right now per HHS), but the longer than goes, the easier it’s going to be for the Golden Eagles to grind out wins.
Game #9: at UW-Milwaukee Panthers (4-5, 3-1 Horizon League)
Date: Wednesday, December 9, 2021
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Klotsche Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette is 31-20 all time against Milwaukee. The Golden Eagles have won 26 of the last 29 games in the series, but the Panthers snapped an eight game Marquette winning streak with a 64-55 win at the McGuire Center last season.
This year’s UWM team is not last year’s UWM team, though. Last year, the Panthers ended up going 20-8 with a 15-5 mark in the Horizon League. That means they went 4-2 in their non-conference schedule, as they had two HL tourney games in there too. Milwaukee is already just 1-4 in non-conference action, so things have gone backwards. Sure, visiting #16 Florida State (and losing by 37) did not help there, and that win coming at home against now 2-7 Wisconsin probably tells you a lot more about the Badgers than it does about the Panthers.
They are off to a solid start in Horizon League play, even though they did take a 58-50 loss back on Thursday on the road to Youngstown State. 3-1 is pretty good through four games, and the Panthers were picked to finish second in the league, so that’s kind of right on target right now.
Megan Walstad was one of five women on the Horizon League’s preseason all-conference First Team, and so far she’s living up to the hype. Walstad leads UWM in scoring at 15.8 points per game and she’s the only one on the team north of 10. She’s also leading the team in rebounding at 8.0 per game, and the 6’2” Minnesota native is also averaging more than a block per game with a team high 12 through eight games. The only true flaw in her game is her shooting, as about 25% of her attempts this season have come from behind the arc and she has only hit 28% of them.
That’s kind of indicative of the entire team, as they have five women attempting at least two long range shots per game and only freshman Kendall Nead is north of 30% on the year. Head coach Kyle Rechlicz doesn’t have her team focusing on taking threes, as they only account for about 30% of their shots, so they seem to be aware it is a flaw. If Marquette can induce them to launch, that’s likely a winning strategy.
This game could end up being won on the glass. Marquette is heavily focused on rebounding on both ends as is Megan Duffy’s preference, but UWM is no slouch there. They rank #101 in the country in offensive rebounding rate per HerHoopStats.com as well as #66 on the defensive end. MU has them beat in both departments — #1 and #52 — but when both teams emphasize a particular angle of the game, only one of them can come out ahead at the end of the day.