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#19 Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: at Illinois State

Yes, you read that right: The nationally ranked Golden Eagles are on the road to face a MVC squad.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 31 Indiana State at Illinois State
The mascot’s name is Reggie.
Photo by David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We had a week off between Marquette women’s basketball games, so I took some time mid-week to peek around at some offensive and defensive efficiency numbers, particularly in the on the court/off the court part of the world, and specifically with fireballing sophomore wing Kenzie Hare in mind. It would have been a little too long for what I normally like to do with these previews, so it exists as its own thing, so go check it out if you haven’t already.

This game exists as several things at once for the Golden Eagles. First of all, it’s their first game since they moved up to #19 in the country in the Associated Press poll, which is MU’s best ranking under the direction of head coach Megan Duffy. Second, it’s Marquette’s final tune-up before Big East play begins, as Creighton comes to the McGuire Center on Wednesday. I suspect that no one is excited about that game existing in the midst of Finals Week on campus, but that’s a discussion for a different time. It’s not like MU has a lot of rough edges to hammer out before conference action this season, which leads us to our next thing about this game.

It’s a chance for Marquette to run their record on the season to a perfect 9-0. They’ve already gone sailing past the previous record for best start to a season, which was 5-0. At 8-0, it’s safe to say that the MU coaching staff has done a good job of assimilating six newcomers into a roster with five available returning players. With Claire Kaifes coming off a preseason groin injury, that was really only four available returning players, and with freshman Halle Vice enduring a wrist injury, it was really five available newcomers for a while there. In Short: A lot of moving parts and maybe a few expected plans went by the wayside, but MU’s still off to the best start in program history and can keep that going with a win on Sunday.

To do that, they’ll have to withstand yet another interesting thing about this game: It’s Marquette’s second road game this season and second against a team outside the traditional power structure of college basketball. The first was their visit to IUPUI earlier this year, and that one went pretty well: Marquette won by 34. With that said, it was against a team that was picked to finish ninth in the Horizon League. That’s not the case this time around, as at least two people think that Sunday’s opponent can win a second straight Missouri Valley title. If the Golden Eagles can secure a win, it might end up being sneaky valuable later on, as Illinois State is currently a top 100 NET opponent.

Game #9: at Illinois State Redbirds (6-2)

Date: Sunday, December 10, 2023
Time: 2pm Central
Location: CEFCU Arena, Normal, Illinois
Streaming: ESPN+
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Bluesky Updates: @AnonymousEagle

Marquette is 2-2 all time against Illinois State. The first two meetings were a home-and-home series in 1992 and 1993 with both sides winning on their courts. That trend continued in 2009 when MU took a 51-50 defeat in Normal as well as in 2019 when the Golden Eagles won 58-41 at the McGuire Center. Good: Winning by 17. The Bad? This is how I put it at the time:

It was.... not.... great viewing.

Both teams turned it over on more than 20% of their possessions, with Marquette “only” coughing it up on 20.3% and thus holding the advantage there.

Anyway, the Redbirds!

Illinois State is 6-2 on the season, and nobody’s faulting them for either loss. The first one was a road trip against UW-Green Bay, and not only are the Phoenix the preseason favorites in the Horizon League, they followed up the 88-62 win over ISU by going out to Omaha and beating then-#22 Creighton by 12, 65-53. THEN Green Bay beat #23 Washington State down in Mexico over Thanksgiving weekend. I say “oh well” to that ISU loss, even if it was a little lopsided.

Loss #2 on the year for Illinois State was also lopsided, 79-61, but that’s what happens when you visit the #5 team in the country sometimes. The team in question was NC State, and that game, back on December 3rd, was the most recent contest for ISU as well. In short, they’ll be well rested and probably still slightly annoyed about their trip to Raleigh.

Illinois State was picked to finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference this season, and they even snagged two first place votes out of the 48 votes cast between coaches, SIDs, and media members. This is after they went 24-9 a year ago with a 17-3 mark in league play and tied with Belmont for the top spot in the league. They got knocked off in the MVC tournament semifinals and had to settle for a WNIT berth, and they took a road loss to Missouri in the first round of that event.

DeAnna Wilson is ISU’s lone rep on the preseason all-MVC first or second teams. She’s leading the squad in scoring this season at 14.6 per game, although she did miss the Green Bay game. Curious as to how that one could have gone if she was available. She has been plagued by foul trouble this season and as such, she’s only averaging 21 minutes per game. She’s also leading the team in rebounds at 6.1 per game, so all of that is pretty interesting given her limited run time. The 6’2” Wilson does most of her scoring on the interior, attempting just five three-pointers all year so far. Her next triple attempt will tie the entirety of her first three seasons with ISU, so she’s learning to step outside there, and Wilson is 2-for-5 this year. She hasn’t attempted a three in the last five games, so it will be interesting to see what Marquette’s defense does with her if she’s out on the perimeter.

Illinois State does have two double digit scorers for MU to worry about in Caroline Waite and Maya Wong. Waite averages 13.6 per game, while Wong is at 12.6 a night. Waite is the shooter of the two, with the 5’4” Iowan knocking down 47% of her 55 attempts so far this year. Wong is no slouch at 56%, but she only has 18 total attempts through eight games. Wong leads the team in assists with 4.3 per game, while Kate Bullman has a fantastic name for her role on the team: Leading Rebounder. The 6’2” senior from Grayslake is hauling in 9.4 rebounds per game so far this year, and Her Hoop Stats has her as the #16 defensive rebounder in the country right now.