For the first time since the 2010-2011 season, the Marquette women’s basketball team is going dancing. Marquette received an at-large bid for the Women’s National Invitational Tournament and will face Northern Iowa at the Al McGuire Center tomorrow night.
“It’s definitely an advantage for us,” junior Katherine Plouffe said of playing at home. “Just having the fans on our side, it’s a good thing to have.”
The Golden Eagles come into the WNIT after a loss to DePaul in the Big East tournament. Marquette fell 77-69 on March 9. Despite the early exit from the tournament, the team is excited to still be playing in late March.
“We’re excited to just extend our season and play more games,” Plouffe said. “Just being able to compete longer into our season is fun.”
Northern Iowa also received an at-large bid from the selection committee. It finished fourth in the Missouri Valley conference, fulfilling preseason projections for the team. The Panthers’ offense is run through senior Jacqui Kalin. Kalin averages 19.7 points per game, 12.1 points more than the second-leading scorer on the team. Kalin also leads the team in minutes, field goal attempts and makes, three pointer attempts and makes and rebounds per contest.
But the most impressive stat is Kalin’s season .954 free throw percentage. Kalin has only missed eight free throws in 173 attempts. Marquette will have to defend her well and not let her get to the free throw line.
“They’ll have (Kalin) as a key player,” Plouffe said. “It’ll be our defense that will determine how they do. As long as we play our game, we should limit her scores.”
For the Golden Eagles, the focus will be capitalizing on rebounds and second-chance points, as well as spreading around the scoring. Marquette is the tallest team that Northern Iowa has faced and should be able to exploit its size. But if the Panthers can limit Plouffe down low, Marquette will have to get points from second-leading scorer Arlesia Morse as well as the bench.
“Over the last few games we’ve been focusing on getting the ball inside,” Plouffe said. “We’ll continue to do that, not only in this game, but also for the rest of the tournament. If we punish them inside, then the guards will be open, so it will all work together.”
“Terri always emphasizes being a threat,” freshman Brooklyn Pumroy said. “Everybody needs to find a way to make the other team guard them … we just have to have the other guards or forwards attacking the basket and trying to create something.”
Even though the team is taking the tournament one game at a time, the Golden Eagles have set goals for the postseason just as they did for the regular season. Pumroy said the goals focus the team on making a run in the tournament.
“Our goals are to go 3-0 for the first part of the tournament and then look at the bracket and go from there,” Pumroy said. “But individually, we’re trying to do different things, little things to make us feel accomplished and like we’re playing our best.”