Golden Eagles hope to beat Bucky in biggest non-conference test

Trib File Photo
Trib File Photo

The Marquette Golden Eagles will ride their momentum from a successful Orlando Classic tournament into the Bradley Center Saturday, when the team battles in-state rival No. 2 Wisconsin in the toughest non-conference matchup of the season.

The Badgers will be the third Big Ten team the Golden Eagles will face this season. Marquette is 0-2 so far against the conference, falling to then-No. 20 Ohio State 74-63 in Columbus, Ohio in the team’s second game of the season, and then losing 79-68 in the Orlando Classic against then-No. 20 Michigan State. In both games, the Golden Eagles had a strong first half, but could not keep pace with their opponents in the second. Having a week off between games will help Marquette rest and get healthy, while also providing ample time to prep for the Badgers.

Wisconsin heads into the game off the heels of arguably its toughest game of the season, as the Badgers battled with No. 4 Duke Wednesday and lost 80-70 for their first loss of the season. The game against Marquette presents an interesting challenge for the Badgers, as it’s the first true road game of the season for the team. While there are sure to be some Wisconsin supporters in the stands, heading into the hostile Bradley Center could throw the Badgers off their game long enough for it to have a tangible impact for Marquette.

Marquette and Wisconsin play vastly different styles of basketball, and one will have to give Saturday afternoon. The Golden Eagles like to play a fast-paced game, averaging 67.9 possessions per game, which rises to 70.3 at home. Conversely, the Badgers average just 64.4 possessions per game, which is 316th of the 351 teams in the nation. When away from the Kohl Center (the Badgers played three neutral-site games during Thanksgiving), the average possessions increased to 65.3 per game. If the Golden Eagles push the pace on offense, then they should get a few more scoring chances.

The Badgers are one of the most efficient scoring teams in collegiate basketball entering the game. The team is 13th in the nation in points per possession, averaging 1.158 points per possession. However, that number drops to 1.066 outside of Madison. Marquette ranks 75th in the nation in points per possession, averaging 1.052, which rises to 1.091 when the team plays at home.

Even though Marquette seems to be the better shooting team when playing at home, the Golden Eagles haven’t faced the quality of team and defense like the Badgers. Redshirt freshman Duane Wilson heads into the match coming off a big game against Tennessee where he scored 30 points, and graduate student Matt Carlino will also look to prove his Orlando Classic was no fluke.

The Badgers defense limits the opposition to a .371 shooting percentage, 36th in the nation. In effective field goal percentage, the Badgers are 29th, holding opponents to a .414 shooting percentage. Away from home, those numbers move to .417 and .469, respectively. Marquette has a .452 shooting percentage, but that number actually drops to .438 at home. But in effective shooting percentage, the Golden Eagles shoot .516, but drops to .492 at home. The Golden Eagles will need to hit plenty of shots in order to keep the game close. But if Marquette doesn’t, getting second chance points will prove very difficult.

Marquette will definitely have problems on the glass. The size disadvantage for the Golden Eagles was noticeable in the matches against Ohio State and Michigan State, and it will be even more apparent against the Badgers. Marquette’s tallest player is junior Steve Taylor, Jr., sitting at 6-foot-7. There are seven players on the Badgers’ roster taller than him. Marquette will have to figure out a way to get some boards against the taller Wisconsin squad, or it will be a long day for the Golden Eagles.

Marquette heads into the game facing an uphill battle. The Badgers should beat the Golden Eagles by double-digits, but if Marquette plays its best game of the season, with some luck, an upset of the No. 2 team in the country isn’t out of the question.