Marquette Women’s Basketball: Lidlifter against Devilettes set for Saturday

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Arlesia Morse (#4) gets defensive in the season opener. Photo by Aaron Ledesma/ aaron.ledesma@marquette.edu

The regular season officially begins for the Marquette women’s basketball team this Saturday, as they host Mississippi Valley State.

The Devilettes, projected to finish fourth in the Southwest Athletic Conference, are led by senior guard and preseason SWAC defensive player of the year Ka’Neshia Smith.

After a sloppy 64-38 win over Division III Carthage College in the team’s lone exhibition game, the Golden Eagles have spent much of the week fixing the ball-handling and rebounding mistakes made in their first appearance. Sophomore forward Katherine Plouffe said the team is making adjustments in the way they run the court and control the pace of the game.

“There’s a lot to improve on so we’re just tweaking things to get ready,” Plouffe said. “We’ve really been emphasizing pushing the ball up and getting post touches early, so instead of walking the ball up the court, we’ll be looking for our wings to be sprinting the sidelines so we can get those quick post feeds and quick trail shots in transition.”

An emphasis on post play will be a recurring theme for Marquette throughout the season, particularly in matchups against teams like Mississippi Valley State. The Devilettes have only one player on their roster over 6-feet, giving the Golden Eagles a considerable size advantage.

Despite a similar advantage against Carthage, however, Marquette was outrebounded 19-18 in the first half and allowed the Lady Reds 36 total rebounds for the game. This did not escape the notice of coach Terri Mitchell, despite the win, and the team is focused on decisively winning the battle of the boards Saturday.

“We’re going to be bigger than them, and we have to take advantage of our size,” Plouffe said. “We can’t just expect the ball to bounce out of the rim and land in our hands, so we’ve been focusing a lot on offensive rebounding.”

The game against the Devilettes also provides a key opportunity for growth as a unit as the team’s six freshmen have only one game under their belts. Guard Arlesia Morse and forward Apiew Ojulu got their first starts, combining for 19 points, while the freshmen who came off the bench chipped in 15.

Plouffe said the freshmen have spent the week getting comfortable with the playbook, handling the ball and putting themselves in scoring situations, challenges she was all too familiar with as a freshman.

“It was intimidating for me last year to think of myself as a scorer with other older players on the team, but we’re going to need them to step up and be confident in themselves,” Plouffe said.

That confidence, Apiew said, only comes with a mastery of the basic fundamentals of the game, which is something the Golden Eagles work on every day.

“We’ve mostly been focusing on being mentally tough, our biggest emphasis has been confidence and focusing in on the little things rather than going out there just to play,” Apiew said. “We’re a very young team, so we have be fundamentally sound and do all the small things correctly and skillfully.”

Morse looked good in her first attempt to help fill the void left by guard Angel Robinson against Carthage, defending the point and running the floor well, but she anticipates a much faster-paced game against the Devilettes. She expects to guard the point position “nine times out of 10” while sophomore guard Gabi Minix will likely run the point offensively.

While on paper, this game may look like an easy win for the Golden Eagles, Plouffe said they are taking no game for granted.

“This game counts for something and each one is going to make us better, so we’re going to go into it looking to improve ourselves and get a win,” Plouffe said.

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