One of the nation’s most prolific offenses will roll through Crisler Center on Thursday night – and it doesn’t belong to the Michigan women’s basketball team.
The 24th-ranked Wolverines (6-2) will have their hands full with the potent Marquette attack, something coach Kim Barnes Arico is fully aware of.
“Marquette is a great team,” said Barnes Arico on WTKA. “They had a tremendous season last year and they have everyone returning. This will be a great matchup for us because this will be an NCAA Tournament team for sure.”
The Golden Eagles (4-3) rank 16th in the NCAA scoring 84.4 points per game, 20th in field goal percentage at 46.9 and 22nd in assists with just over 18 per game. For comparison, Michigan averages 73.1 points per game, shoots 46.4 percent from the field and amasses 14.3 assists.
Despite the statistical disadvantage, the Wolverines should be confident following two consecutive blowout victories. Michigan outscored LIU Brooklyn and Detroit Mercy by a margin of 73 points. Marquette however, is on a different level than either of the previous two foes.
The Wolverines will also have a slight edge on defense. Led by senior forward Jillian Dunston, Michigan has allowed 62.1 points per game thus far. But at times this season, Barnes Arico and multiple players have admitted to lapses defensively. In order to beat a sound Golden Eagles team, the Wolverines must play consistent defense for all 40 minutes.
On the other hand, Marquette gives up an average of 68.3 points each game. This number may be somewhat inflated though, as a result of the Golden Eagles high-tempo offense. Also, Marquette’s full court press – a strategy they run the entire game – may wear on the Wolverines.
“We try to practice moving the basketball as quickly as we can,” Barnes Arico said. “If you move the basketball, it’s hard to trap. So, we just try to continue to practice against those numbers and simulate those situations as much as possible.”
The most intriguing matchup – and what the game may come down to – lies at the guard positions.
Senior guard Katelynn Flaherty leads Michigan in scoring with 23 points per game. Since Flaherty sees time at both the point and shooting guard positions, she will match up against the Golden Eagles’ two leading scorers – guards Allazia Blockton and Natisha Hiedeman. The duo combines for over 33 points and eight assists per game.
The Wolverines will need a solid performance from Flaherty, their all time leading scorer, in order to come out victorious.
Another advantage for Michigan is its diversity on offense. The Wolverines’ two main offensive options – Flaherty and center Hallie Thome – allow Michigan to score both outside and in the post. If Marquette doubles Flaherty, expect Thome to see a lot of action down low. And on the contrary, if Thome sees a lot of pressure, shots will open up for Flaherty and sharp-shooting junior Nicole Munger.
The Wolverines are still looking for their first top-tier win of the season, previously losing to current No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 4 Louisville. In both matchups, Michigan held leads, but was unable to sustain success for the entire game. The Wolverines look to draw on those experiences Thursday night.
In order for Michigan to come out on top, it must receive solid play from its leading scorers and play hard-nosed defense for the entire game.