Women’s basketball won’t let lack of height affect talented roster

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Women’s basketball won’t let lack of height affect talented roster

Photo by Kate Holstein

Photo by Kate Holstein

Photo by Kate Holstein

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With their tallest starter standing at 5-foot-11, Marquette women’s basketball is attempting to turn the its lack of height into an advantage during the 2018-’19 season.

“We have to play with our head more than our bodies,” head coach Carolyn Kieger said. “That’s something we’ve really gotten better at: learning how to double team when the ball goes inside (and) doing our work early so they can’t get those post touches.

Last season then-junior forward Erika Davenport provided all the height for the Golden Eagles’ defense, with the next tallest regular starter being 5-foot-9 then-junior guard Amani Wilborn.

This presented a challenge beating teams in the upper echelon of college basketball, like Notre Dame and Louisville. Marquette dropped a game against the Fighting Irish 91-85  in overtime and lost to Louisville 90-72 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

“We played a phenomenal three quarters (against Louisville). The first quarter is what hurt us and what killed us,” Kieger said. “We have to do a better job starting games and not getting our backs against the wall and trying to climb out of a hole … We have to figure out a way to play them even for four, not three.”

Most of the teams bright spots last year against teams like Notre Dame and Louisville came from how effective the Golden Eagles were in transition. The bigger teams struggled because they could not keep up with Marquette’s speed.

“When we do play those taller teams, we’re faster, so we don’t really look at (it as a challenge),” Blockton said. A lot of our shots come in the first couple seconds of the shot clock because we’re so good in transition.”

While the roster is slightly taller this year, Blockton and Davenport said they plan to use pace of play to their advantage again this year.

“When we have taller people on other teams, we like to make them run, get them tired and everything,” Davenport said. “Just playing our game (and) playing our pace.”

“I would definitely say it’s an advantage. It’s our style too,” Blockton said. “Everyone on our team is versatile, so I think it works to our advantage to be smaller.”

Shorter teams are one of the trademarks of Kieger’s recruiting classes. She tends to look for versatile athletes.

“We get up and down the floor,” Kieger said. “That’s the style we’ve recruited to, and I think our players are doing a phenomenal job buying into that.”

In Kieger’s first year coaching in 2014-’15, there were five players over 6 feet, including McKayla Yentz, Apiew Ojulu, Shantelle Valentine, Lauren Tibbs and Chelsie Butler.

Now the team has three players over 6 feet following the additions of junior center Amanda Maqueia and freshman forward Chloe Marotta. The team also has 6-foot-4 center Tori McCoy, but her ability to play  is unknown as she battles a rare kidney disease.

“We’ve added some length this year and some size, which I think will help,” Kieger said. “It kind of goes into ball pressure, and I think it goes into our press, playing 90 feet.”

Meanwhile Mequon, Wisconsin native Marotta stands at 6-foot-1 and has already proved her potential size on the court.

“Chloe, she’s a workaholic. She gets out there, she rebounds in practice (and) she’s always crashing the boards,” Blockton said. “She just does anything you need her to. She’s been really good for our team, and she’s been showing great leadership so far.”

Last year, Kieger started four guards and one forward every game, and Davenport was the biggest player on the court for Marquette. However Kieger said lineups may fluctuate based on the best defensive combination.

“We’ll change it up. We’re going to press a lot as we always do, which I think our depth will help with that,” Kieger said. “We’re going to play some zone, change it up with our new length and pressure man-to-man and try to protect the paint. (At the) end of the day, that’s our goal this year, is to protect the paint and less paint touches and harder contested shots.”

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