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Marquette Grounds The Skyhawks

The Golden Eagles grabbed a hold of the game early and never let go.

Marquette guard Rose Nkumu
Career high in assists, career high in blocks, first career double-double... you get to be the picture, Rose Nkumu
Marquette University

Technically, it’s a come from behind victory for Marquette women’s basketball to start the season. UT Martin scored first and then third to take a 4-2 lead.

After that? Kiiiiinda all Marquette.

Kenzie Hare scored three of her eight first quarter points on the next possession as MU dismantled the Skyhawks’ press defense after their make, as Hare got to the rack and drew the foul. Hare scored all eight in a row to make it 10-4 Marquette.... and then Skylar Forbes made an immediate impact in her MU debut. The Canadian forward scored four points in a 12-0 run late in the quarter to put the Golden Eagles up 24-11.

Things only got better for Marquette from there on the way to an 84-51 win in the 2023-24 season opener.

Forbes was the one who scored the bucket in the second quarter to make it a 20 point lead for the first time — technically 21, but you get the point — as Marquette made good use of the freshman’s height and athleticism by just sending her to the rim over and over again in transition and lobbing it out to her. The lead would crest at 23 in the second quarter before settling at 18 at the half on a transition bucket by Rose Nkumu on her way to a double-double. Then she hit a three to open the third quarter and the Golden Eagles mostly kept the lead in the general 20 point range, plus or minus a possession here and there, for the rest of the period. At this point, UT Martin had abandoned the press because Marquette was thrashing it and MU was more than happy to chew clock along the way.

As the Milwaukee Public School kids started to depart the arena on Field Trip Day — the early departure no matter the score is always a thing that happens at these contests — and UT Martin cut the margin to 16 on their first possession of the fourth quarter, there had to be a voice in the back of your head that said “hey, MU had better close this thing out as they lose the boisterous crowd.

No worries on that account, as Kenley McCarn’s opening jumper was two of just nine points in the final frame for the Skyhawks. Liza Karlen triggered a 17-2 run to end the game over the final 7:18, and that was that for this one.

If UT Martin head coach Kevin McMillan went into this game with a game plan of “we are not going to let Jordan King, Liza Karlen, and Frannie Hottinger beat us,” I have to say that he accomplished that task. Four fouls helped limit King to just 21 minutes of action, and she finished with 14 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block. Karlen got to a double-double on 10 points and 10 rebounds, but she needed that trigger bucket in the fourth to get there and she had six points and five rebounds in the third quarter alone, kind of after the game was decided. Hottinger had an awful debut for Marquette after taking home Patriot League Player of the Year honors last season at Lehigh. 31 minutes played, 1-for-7 from the field, three turnovers, three points. Seven rebounds, though, but other than that, not what she or anyone else on the Marquette bench wanted to see.

The reason why MU ran wild? Everyone else beat the Skyhawks. Kenzie Hare rode those eight first quarter points to a game high 17 to go with two rebounds and four assists. Rose Nkumu played a team high 35 minutes — playing the calming influence with new faces down the stretch — and tallied 12 points and 10 assists. That is a career high in assists and the first career double-double for the Iowan, and she even had a career high four blocks. Skylar Forbes finished with 13 points and two rebounds in just 16 minutes of action, making the most of her Marquette debut. Same goes for Lee Volker, who came off the bench to add 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting, even though she went 1-for-5 from long range.

All nine available Golden Eagles played in this game and everyone played at least 10 minutes, including Abbey Cracknell and Bridget Utberg, both of whom made their MU debuts. Returning players Claire Kaifes and Charia Smith were not dressed to play, nor was freshman Halle Vice, who was wearing a fairly large forearm/wrist brace.

How about some highlights, courtesy of and FloHoops?

Up Next: Now that Marquette has shaken off the jitters of opening the season with six new faces on the roster, it’s time for a test. On Saturday, preseason #23 Illinois comes to the McGuire Center, with tipoff set for 2pm Central time. The Illini open their season on Tuesday night when they host Morehead State.