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#23 Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: vs Penn

The Golden Eagles welcome an Ivy League competitor to the McGuire Center as they try to extend their winning streak to start the season.

NCAA Women’s First Round: Pennsylvania v Texas Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Confession time!

I missed the memo about Marquette women’s basketball’s start to the season.

When they beat Memphis, I said, “hey, 7-0, that’s pretty good, this is the best start since when in program history?” In search of the answer, I went sifting through the MU record book and when I realized that Marquette had started last season 5-0, I realized that things were about to look very silly for me. Now, in my defense, that 5-0 start was in the middle of the Battle 4 Atlantis, which was itself in the middle of the volleyball team playing Creighton for a Big East regular season title AND men’s basketball in the Rocket Mortgage Tip-Off, so I feel like I can’t be blamed for that bit not sticking over the last year.

However, there’s no excuse for me missing the fact that the win over Arkansas to win the Fort Myers Tip-Off, which moved the record to 6-0, was the new record for the best start in program history. That beat out last year’s 5-0 and it beat out 5-0 starts in 2010-11, 2008-09, and 2004-05. The win over Memphis moved the record for best start to a season to 7-0, and all due respect to everyone involved, I like Marquette’s chances to extend their run to 9-0 to start the year at the very least.

It’s also worth noting that head coach Megan Duffy has posted back-to-back best starts in program history, first tying the record last year and now breaking it this year. Last year’s 5-0 was a teensy bit more impressive, because it required defeating the #3 team in the country for the fourth win in the run. Marquette “only” beat the #23 team in the country in their run to start this season, which isn’t quite the same as knocking off a team with preseason hopes of a national championship, but it is still something notable. Knocking off Illinois in the second game of the season put the Golden Eagles on the national radar in the first week of the season. More importantly, it showed that Duffy figured out how to staple together her roster of five available returning players and six newcomers to win basketball games against high level competition, and do that pretty quickly at that.

After Sunday afternoon, Marquette has two unique challenges in front of them, but we’ll get to that when we get to those games. For now, the task at hand is extending the winning streak to a new program record eight straight wins to start the season. For the record: Marquette hasn’t won eight straight games at any point in a season since the 2018-19 team started out Big East action with 12 straight victories. Always a new mountain to climb, that’s for sure.

Game #8: vs Penn Quakers (5-2)

Date: Sunday, December 3, 2023
Time: 1pm Central
Location: McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloHoops
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

This is the first ever meeting between Marquette and Penn.

The Quakers are coming off a 16-12 season a year ago where they went 9-5 in Ivy League play. That was good enough for a fourth place finish and a spot in the conference tournament, and even after a loss to Princeton there, Penn still qualified for the WNIT as an at-large entrant. They exited after a first round loss on the road against Richmond, but hey: Postseason basketball is postseason basketball.

Penn was picked to finish fourth in the Ivy League this season, but that on its own doesn’t paint the whole picture. Princeton was the unanimous choice to win the league, and Columbia and Harvard were neck-and-neck in the polling at 103 and 102 points respectively. It was easy to figure out that the Tigers would be good this season after they’ve won at least 22 games in each of the last five seasons, and Columbia has been on a heater the last two years as well. Getting stuck in fourth behind those three teams is nothing to be bummed about in the big picture of things, even if you were very clearly fourth in the league.

Officially, Penn is 5-2 on the year, but that does include a 92-46 road win over Chapman, which is a Division 3 team in Orange, California. Why did a team from Philadelphia play a road game against a D3 team on the literal other side of the country? Mostly because they were going out there to play San Diego State and UC San Diego over Thanksgiving weekend anyway. I have several questions about why they couldn’t find a Division 1 opponent, but that’s life, I suppose. In any case, the Quakers dropped the SDSU game, but defeated the Tritons the next day, and then returned home for a win over La Salle this past Wednesday to give them two straight wins coming into Sunday’s contest against the Golden Eagles.

The four women who have started all seven games for Penn this season are all averaging double digits in points so far, led by 19.7 per game from Stina Almqvist. The 6’1” Swede has to do most of her work inside the arc, as she’s shooting just 17% from three-point land. She’s never been a long range shooter in two seasons with Penn, so I have no idea why head coach Mike Mclaughlin, in his 15th season in charge, is letting her shoot a career high number of attempts out there. Jordan Obi (33% on 21 attempts) and Lizzy Groetsch (38% on 16 attempts) sure, I see it. Mataya Gayle, rounding out the four double digit scorers, who leads the team in long range attempts with 40.... but only hitting 28%? At least she’s a freshman? I guess?

It shouldn’t be surprising that Penn isn’t a good three-point shooting team as a whole, hitting just 26% against Division 1 competition and ranking #287 in the country in that regard according to Her Hoop Stats. The weird part is that Penn does rank in the top 100 in three-point attempt rate. They’re really not good at it, but for some reason, McLaughlin wants them doing it a lot. Even weirder: Penn is currently #218 in possessions per 40 minutes, so it’s not like this is a high octane, run-and-shoot, let it fly type of offense. They are pretty good about not turning it over, so Marquette is either going have to 1) work to keep up their top 50 defensive turnover rate or B) find another way to make the offense hum.

The Golden Eagles should have a notable advantage on the glass. MU’s rebounding rates on both ends according to HHS are better than Penn’s, and there’s no one on the Quaker roster that’s really tearing it up on an individual level, at least in terms of rate. Groetsch, Almqvist, and Obi are all north of six rebounds per game, and the first two are both hauling in at least two offensive rebounds per game. If Marquette plays Marquette Basketball, things should work out okay, but they’ll have to take every possession seriously.