The women’s half of the Wisconsin-Madison vs. Marquette basketball rivalry is set for tonight at the Al McGuire Center as the Golden Eagles (2-0) look to beat the Badgers (1-1) for the second consecutive year.
“Coming in we know Wisconsin’s going to have a lot of extra intensity because we beat them last year,” junior forward Sarina Simmons said. “This is a big in-state rivalry game for bragging rights.”
Wisconsin is reeling after an 80-63 loss to Oral Roberts in its home opener, while the Golden Eagles struggled to pull off a 69-61 win over Mississippi Valley State Saturday.
Junior do-it-all guard Taylor Wurtz leads the Badgers in scoring and rebounding with a combined 32 points and 29 boards in Wisconsin’s first two games, presenting a sizable challenge to an inexperienced Marquette backcourt.
“She has big rebounding numbers as a guard, and they’ve outrebounded each of their opponents by double digits,” sophomore guard Gabi Minix said. “That makes her a big focus for us because we’re always looking to out-rebound our opponents with our size.”
Against a Badger team that was outscored 32-20 in the paint against Oral Roberts, the Golden Eagles will once again hold an advantage in size under the basket. They will need to improve from their last performance, however, as Marquette scored 26 points in the paint but allowed a much smaller Devilettes team 42 rebounds to its 48.
“One of our big focuses in this week’s practices was pushing back and bulking up on defensive rebounding,” sophomore forward Katherine Plouffe said. “We’re going to see teams that are taller than us or as tall as us in the Big East, and we’ve got to work on not giving up easy offensive boards before we get into conference play.”
Minix and freshman guard Arlesia Morse will get their opportunities to score as well, as the Badgers’ backcourt struggled defensively, giving up 49 total points against Oral Roberts. Morse is coming off a breakthrough performance after hitting three 3-pointers in Saturday’s game, while Minix dished out nine assists despite committing seven turnovers.
“I feel like if we drive and kick we can play to our strengths,” Minix said. “This is a big game where you want to get into a groove to prepare yourself for a taste of the what the Big East will be like.”
Another key will be Marquette’s ability to force the Badgers to make mistakes, as Oral Roberts was able to convert 38 points off 31 turnovers against Wisconsin. Marquette surrendered more turnovers than they forced against the Devilettes, which Plouffe described as a “slip-up,” but the Golden Eagles have worked to sharpen their play this week to take advantage of the occasionally sloppy Badgers.
“Our defensive focus in general is to not let the offense get comfortable by cutting off passing lanes and pressuring the ball handler,” Plouffe said.
Overall, from an offensive standpoint, Plouffe said the team would take a balanced approach, starting first and foremost with getting the ball into the paint to open up perimeter shooting lanes.
“We’re just going to run our plays and see what they give us. If our shooters are feeling it we’ll definitely feed them,” Plouffe said. “We always have a focus to get those quick post feeds and paint touches so they can collapse on us and we can get good shots outside as well.”