MU not ready to ‘hail to the victors’

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Life’s been a breeze so far for the Marquette women’s basketball team. Two straight easy home victories over cupcakes Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Alcorn State have allowed Marquette to brush away the offseason cobwebs.

The real season begins Friday night when the Golden Eagles host Michigan, a big name school from a big name conference.

The Wolverines come into the Al McGuire Center fresh off an 85-76 home loss to No. 5 Xavier on Monday night. Michigan showed it has talent despite the loss as it hung around with a top-ranked opponent, something the Golden Eagles have yet to attempt this season.

Like Marquette, the Wolverines are led by their backcourt. Senior guard Veronica Hicks posts an impressive 16.5 points per game, including a 22-point performance against the Musketeers.

Junior guard Courtney Boylan and 6-foot-4-inch sophomore guard Kate Thompson each average 14 points per game to round out the Wolverines’ top-three scorers.

The Golden Eagles will be looking to avenge last year’s 67-50 loss to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, Mich.  It was Marquette’s first loss in the 2009-’10 season.

Now fans get to see what this team can do against genuine adversity, and the Marquette locker room is abuzz with enthusiasm.

“This is our first true test,” senior guard Courtney Weibel said. “We’re all really excited to play a team like Michigan early in the season.”

So far Marquette has been able to run the floor and work the ball around well, averaging 26.5 assists per game as a team. The defense has forced opponents to turn the ball over 54 times and has recorded 32 steals.

The Golden Eagles’ frontcourt has dominated down low, outrebounding opponents 84-54. Senior forward Paige Fiedorowicz and freshman forward Katherine Plouffe average 18.5 and 18 points per game, respectively, to form the team’s one-two scoring punch.

Through its first two games, Marquette has averaged 19.5 turnovers per game and knows that such mistakes could be crucial against better teams.

“We just need to take care of the ball,” Fiedorowicz said. “Other than that we’re just going to keep playing the way we’ve been playing.”

Perimeter shooting is another area the Golden Eagles look to improve on, as they are shooting 25 percent (7-of-28) from downtown. Weibel particularly has struggled beyond the arc, shooting 18.2 percent (2-of-11) and has been putting in extra effort.

“I’ve been working on my shot in the gym,” Weibel said. “I try to make 100 threes a day to prepare.”

Marquette will also host Monmouth (N.J.) Sunday afternoon.

Coach Terri Mitchell takes each nonconference game as an opportunity to improve and get ready for Big East play, and the weekend matchups with Michigan and Monmouth are no exception.

“We have 13 games to prepare to play in the best conference in the nation,” Mitchell said. “We’re always going to look inside out and put pressure on any team, despite being undersized.”

A win over Michigan would certainly add to the Golden Eagles’ resume come tournament time, but regardless of the outcome, Friday’s game will offer a glimpse of this squad’s true identity and provide a preview of what fans can expect once Marquette enters conference play.

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