Marquette Wire

Dayton’s pace provides threat for Marquette entering NCAA Tournament

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

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One sequence kept repeating itself throughout Marquette’s BIG EAST title season: A Marquette opponent would make a predictable pass, and a Golden Eagle defender would jump the passing lane to steal the ball, resulting in an easy fastbreak score on the other end.

“A team strength of Marquette, of course, is our tempo,” junior guard Amani Wilborn said. “Just playing fast.”

Few teams have outpaced the Golden Eagles (23-9), who have averaged 68 possessions per game in their last three contests. But that could change Friday against the Dayton Flyers (23-6) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

“They like to run and so do we,” Dayton senior point guard Jenna Burdette said. “I don’t think they’ve faced a team that runs as hard as we do or gets out in transition like we do, so I think that’s a good thing for us.”

Dayton has averaged 70 possessions in its last three games and has surpassed the 70-possession plateau in its last two games.

“It’s not going to be a walk-the-ball-up-the-floor type of game,” Dayton head coach Shauna Green said. “So it should be entertaining.”

This poses a significant challenge for a Marquette team that has struggled to distribute the ball recently. During the BIG EAST Tournament, just 18.5 percent of the Golden Eagles’ 205 possessions resulted in an assist.

“We have to take the shots that we want, and not the shots that Dayton is trying to force us into,” Marquette head coach Carolyn Kieger said. “We do a good job of an inside-outside presence, and we have to continue that as we play this 40-minute game.”

The Golden Eagles have enjoyed the benefit of playing other uptempo offenses throughout the year, including three matchups against the BIG EAST champion DePaul Blue Demons. Dayton has not had that luxury in the Atlantic 10 conference.

“They’re different than probably any team in our league,” Green said of Marquette. “They’re very athletic.”

Dayton compensated for its inexperience against fast teams by scrimmaging at game speed, but the Flyers will have to account for more than Marquette’s quick-strike offense. The Golden Eagles love to apply defensive pressure; they have forced at least 16 turnovers in 11 of 21 BIG EAST. In those 11 games, Marquette is 10-1.

“I would say our strength would be our disruptive full-court defense,” said junior point guard Danielle King. “We really get after the ball — ball-hawk a lot.”

“We want to try to get them down the court as fast as we can in transition,” junior forward Erika Davenport said.

Neither team relies heavily on bench players, but that will have to change in Friday’s game with the possibility of 75-plus possessions on both sides.

“This is going to be at a whole ‘nother (sic) pace, and defensively, as well,” Green said. “The couple of people that come off of the bench are going to be big. They need to come in, they need to bring energy, they need to be solid defensively and they need to be able to manufacture some points.”

Otherwise, the tool that propelled Marquette to its first-ever BIG EAST regular-season title may prematurely end the team’s postseason run.

“No one really likes to play against pace teams,” Burdette said. “So it’ll be fun.”

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About the Writer
John Steppe, Executive Sports Editor

John Steppe is the executive sports editor for the Marquette Wire. He is a junior majoring in journalism and double-minoring in digital media and Spanish....

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