The University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team (5-3) returned home on Saturday and defeated La Salle (4-4) to win their third consecutive game. And after only one day to prepare, Wisconsin heads back on the road to play in-state rival Marquette (3-3) at the Al McGuire Center.
The last 10 years of this rivalry has been split with both teams winning five games apiece. Marquette won last year in Madison in a hotly contested affair. UW will look to return the favor in Milwaukee this year.
Monday night, the Badgers will look for junior forward Marsha Howard and senior winger Cayla McMorris to both continue their impressive play. Howard averaged 17 points a game, along with grabbing 12 rebounds a game over course of the Badgers three game-winning streak. While McMorris, over the same stretch, averaged 14 points a game, along with grabbing nine rebounds a game.
With these two players playing their best basketball of the season, UW’s matchup with Marquette comes at a perfect time. Last year against the Golden Eagles, Howard had her breakout game as she scored 20 points while also making her presence inside known to the tune of six rebounds.
McMorris, although she scored 21 points against the Golden Eagles, fouled out midway through the fourth quarter, picking up her fifth foul with 4:30 left in the game. Her veteran presence was missed late down the stretch as the Badgers faltered and had several turnovers late in the game.
Another player to watch for is Courtney Fredrickson. The sophomore forward from Minnetonka, Minn., has been one of the crucial players for Wisconsin as she has been a steady and vital contributor coming off the bench. She’s averaged 10 points a game over the Badgers' win streak.
The Golden Eagles’ record, although not outwardly impressive, is a bit misleading as its losses have come against high quality opponents. Marquette lost on the road to two of nation’s top mid-major programs in Green Bay (6-1) and New Mexico (7-0), and its other loss came in a two-point overtime defeat to the historically-great Tennessee Volunteers (7-0) in the Cancun Challenge.
As the Golden Eagles are coming off a loss to in-state rivals the Green Bay Phoenix, they were held for the first time in the season to less than 80 points. Their low point production was a result of the team shooting a season-low 34 percent from the field and 18 percent from beyond the arc.
The Golden Eagles throughout the course of the season, however, have shot the ball extremely well from the field, as is evident due to their one big advantage that they possess over the Badgers: All five starters for the Golden Eagles are averaging over 10 points a game, led by junior guard Allazia Blockton’s 17 points a game.
The Golden Eagles returned three of the top four scorers from the Badger game last year with junior guard Allazia Blockton, junior guard Natisha Hiedeman and junior forward Erika Davenport all returning to school.
Look for Blockton and Hiedeman, who scored 24 points and 17 points respectively last year, to both have big games against the Badgers if the Wisconsin defense doesn’t key in on them and limit their prime scoring opportunities.
Another player to look out for that proposes a matchup issue is the Golden Eagles’ 6’2” redshirt freshman guard Lauren Van Kleunen. Van Kleunen is averaging 10 points a game this season and expect her to have continued success as the Badgers don’t have a guard that can match up with her on the perimeter.
As with almost all in-state rivalry games, expect each team to bring a level of intensity that it normally would not bring. This game seems poised to come down to the fourth quarter once again and whichever team can capitalize down the stretch under pressure will likely emerge victorious.
Tipoff is at 7 p.m. from Milwaukee.