Confidence, slowing down game lead to Karlen’s early succes

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Photo by Collin Nawrocki

Sophomore forward Liza Karlen (32) looks to make a pass in Marquette women’s basketball’s 59-45 win over Butler Dec. 5.

Despite having grown up in St. Paul, Minnesota, sophomore forward Liza Karlen said she felt right at home when she decided to commit to head coach Megan Duffy and the Marquette women’s basketball program.

“Marquette was always one of my top schools in high school just because I felt so at home,” Karlen said. “My mom went here, my uncle went here, I have a lot of family in Milwaukee so growing up I’ve always kind of been around the campus and Milwaukee,” Karlen said.

Assistant coach Justine Raterman knew even during the recruiting process that Karlen would be a good fit for the program.

“She’s an incredibly hard worker, she’s so driven, so even in the recruiting process and then getting to coach her last year I always knew she had it in her to be a really big part of our program,” Raterman said.

Last season, Karlen averaged four points and three rebounds per game while shooting 39% from beyond the arc in her first season with the Golden Eagles.

Even with having to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Karlen said she was just happy to be part of the team last season.

“It was definitely a weird year with COVID, but I also had nothing to compare it to because I didn’t know what a normal college season is like,” Karlen said. “I thought it was a good year, we had an incredible team and great season last year, so it was exciting. COVID or no COVID, I was happy to be there.”

Karlen said one of the close friendships she made last season was with senior forward Chloe Marotta.

Marotta said outside of watching basketball together, they can talk about pretty much anything.

“We talk a lot about life stuff,” Marotta said. “She’s really into her family as well so we talk about our families a lot. I was able to visit Liza in Minnesota during her freshman year summer, so it was cool to see where she is from and meet some of her friends out there.”

Karlen is off to a strong start in her sophomore campaign, putting up career-highs across the board, averaging 7.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, while also putting up six blocks and 10t steals.

Marotta said Karlen has grown in many ways from her first year to her sophomore year on the court including her play in the paint and rebounding.

“She’s been a great rebounder but now with the more minutes she’s playing and that higher role of needing to be that rebounder for us she’s definitely grabbed a lot more boards for us this year which is great to see.” Marotta said.

Outside of her on court skills, Marotta has seen a change in Karlen’s confidence as well.

Beyond her stats improving, Raterman said that Karlen has shown a commitment to the little things.

“So far this season what she has shown is just her commitment to get better with all the little things,” Raterman said. “Obviously she came in with a lot of talent, a lot of versatility in our forward position but she’s really bought into just the little plays that she has to make.”

Karlen said, for herself, it has been allowing the game to slow down for her.

“I’m a lot more familiar with our style of play, I’m a lot more familiar with what college basketball really looks like,” Karlen said. “I think that has really helped me out a lot is just slowing my own game down.”

While the scoring and rebounding numbers are up from last year, Karlen has started out slow from beyond the arc, starting the season 0-for-18.

Karlen said she isn’t worried about the cold start from 3-point land to begin the season.

“I feel like everyone gets in a slump sometimes, obviously I have started the season off a little rough with the 3-pointer, but my role on this team is to shoot the ball so that’s what I’m going to continue to do,” Karlen said.

Raterman said that she has also started seeing the game slow down for Karlen.

“Yes, it’s definitely slowing down for her, and you can see that in the way she’s playing you know just her pace, able to understand what’s going on in the game and make adjustments and that’s something she’ll continue to get better at as she gets more experience,” Raterman said.

A testament to Karlen’s growth from last season has been evident early on this season as Karlen recorded her first career double-double Dec. 3 in Marquette’s 76-48 win over Xavier, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

She said while she has improved her game, her mentality for the rest of the season is “always room to improve.”

“I’m hoping to get better on my perimeter defense, I feel like I’ve made pretty good improvements on my post defense and you know in the BIG EAST, there’s gonna be a lot of bigger players and even bigger guards that I’m gonna have to match up with so I really want to be able to defensively shut them down” Karlen said.

This article was written by Jackson Gross. He can be reached at jackson.gross@marquette.edu or on Twitter @JacksonGrossMU.