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Improved defense helps No. 8 Marquette

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Improved defense helps No. 8 Marquette

Photo by Elena Fiegen

Photo by Elena Fiegen

Photo by Elena Fiegen

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Marquette women’s basketball allowed only 60 points or less six times in the 34-game season last year. This season, that has already happened 12 times in 23 games.

The Golden Eagles are the fourth-highest scoring team in the nation, but their defense has allowed Marquette to achieve its highest ranking in the Associated Press Poll in program history.

“We’ve always been a high-octane offense, but when you add that defensive presence and commitment to the defensive end, it makes us a completely different team,” head coach Carolyn Kieger said.

Marquette has given up an average of just 60.9 points per game, which is the lowest total in the BIG EAST.

“(Kieger) talking and helping us as well as stressing on defensive principles … I think that’s been huge,” senior forward Erika Davenport said. “We’ve been practicing a lot this year on certain drills and emphasizing defense as a whole.”

Davenport has been a key part of Marquette’s defensive improvement. Against Georgetown Feb. 8, Davenport notched her 1,000th rebound, making her the fourth player in program history to do so.

“She’s a glass cleaner right now. She’s an emotional leader for us too, and she’s very passionate,” Kieger said. “When she plays, everyone gets excited. When she’s in the zone and locked in, she’s very hard to guard. … She’s a matchup nightmare. I think teams in the BIG EAST have been worrying about (Davenport) for four straight years now.”

Kieger also mentioned how Davenport gets 21 percent of the rebounds on the court when she is playing.

Davenport said Kieger has been talking to her a lot about getting rebounds and making sure she is a force on the defensive end.

“Whatever I need to do for my team on defense, that’s what I’m going to do,” Davenport said. “For now, that’s (getting) rebounds.”

Davenport is not the only player to improve defensively. Fellow senior guard Natisha Hiedeman leads the BIG EAST in scoring, but she also makes an impact on defense. 

Hiedeman has already surpassed her total of 119 rebounds from last year. So far this season, she has a total of 134 rebounds and counting.

“She’s always been capable of stopping people and getting in a stance, but I think her commitment to being consistent on both ends is the biggest growth I’ve seen,” Kieger said.

Davenport said that when the team communicates, it helps with their spacial awarness and helps them know what to do. 

“It’s very important for us to be together when it comes to defense,” Davenport said. 

Kieger said another key difference she has seen in this year’s team has been off-ball defense.

“We’ve always been able to guard the ball one-on-one decently, but this year we’re making rotations, we’re covering for each other, we’re plugging up driving lanes, we’re getting out in passing lanes and we’re rebounding at a more efficient rate,” Kieger said.

Kieger said she has noticed the team’s increased attention in scouting and ability to be locked in on personnel.

While there has been a lot of success all around for the Golden Eagles, there is still room for improvement.

Kieger said the team needs to lock in more on the opponent’s best players and eliminate them as offensive threats. She mentioned how other teams’ best players have gone off on her team a few times in past matchups.

“We have about seven defensive goals every game, and we want to make sure we’re getting as close as we can to getting all seven as we possibly can,” Kieger said. “That’s points in the paint and winning the rebounding battle. The opponent’s field goal percentage is a huge one for us. We want to get that to around 35 percent every game. If we can do that, we (have) a chance to win every game.”

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