The Golden Eagles will look to bounce back at the friendly confines of the Bradley Center Friday night when they host the Western Carolina Catamounts. (#23/24) Marquette is coming off their second non-conference loss of the season, when they fell to (#16/19) Tennessee in the Big East/SEC Invitational last Tuesday.
Expect to see MU focus on two critical areas coming off of their loss to the Volunteers. For only the second time all year, Marquette was beaten in the free throws attempted category (the loss to Dayton the other). It was only a difference of one free throw, but considering the Golden Eagles have averaged out-attempting their opponents by 12.25 trips to the charity stripe a game, it was a huge factor. This area will not be the focus on the offensive end however. Coach Buzz Williams and his players have the dilemma of playing undersized and not fouling. It’s a challenge Williams is open about, and knows it is not going away.
"I think we’ll fight an uphill battle, moreso than probably what most people think," said Williams with regard to avoiding foul trouble. "I think we’ve fought an uphill battle thus far in the 10 games we’ve played up to this point. And I don’t know how many left we have scheduled, but I think every game will be an uphill battle.”
Reprive is coming in the way of Western Carolina (5-3), who averages only drawing about 13 fouls per game. However, the Catamounts counter that statistic by taking a page out of Marquette’s playbook, using a high pressure defense that is forcing its opponents to turn the ball over 19 times a game. Junior guard Brigham Waginger has already entered the top ten in WCU history in thefts, and leads the team once again this year. He will handle their point guard duties with an impressive 2 to 1 assist to turnover ratio.
The Catamounts are led by 6’8”, 205 pound junior, Jake Robinson, and his 15.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Robinson however, does not do his damage inside. He’ll remind Golden Eagle fans of another lanky sharpshooter that graduated back in 2006, Steve Novak. Although Robinson is not as accurate as the former unanimous All-Big East selection, he has the green light to shoot anywhere. Averaging eight attempts from three per game, he will certainly test Marquette’s perimeter defense.
Junior guard Brandon Giles will also light up the scoreboard for WCU is left open. Shooting an impressive 44.4% from deep, the 6’6” Giles’ 14.1 points per game will give Wes Matthews and Lazar Hayward two difficult defensive match ups when they meet Friday night.
The Golden Eagles will also look to improve their assist total against Western Carolina, as the guards uncharacteristically struggled to set up baskets in Nashville. MU’s season low of 10 assists tied their output against rival Wisconsin, and created quite a bit of one-on-one basketball.
Also, do not be surprised if Buzz Williams and the players on the floor make more of a concerned effort to get Dwight Burke some easy baskets to build confidence. With exception of the sparsely used Blake Gallagher, who only averages 13 minutes of playing time per game, Dwight will have at 25 pounds on whomever attempts to guard him inside. It is a great opportunity to improve his offensive productivity.
Time Warner Sports will produce Friday night’s affair, with it appearing on Channel 32 throughout Milwaukee. The game will also be on ESPN Full Court for the out of market fans who want to catch the action. Tip off is set for 7:34 pm at the Bradley Center.
MUTV Remote Coordinating Producer
Marquette University Radio (WMUR) Sports Director