No. 23/24 Marquette returns to the Bradley Center Friday night to host the Western Carolina Catamounts. The Golden Eagles will look to bounce back from a loss to No. 16/19 Tennessee in the Big East/SEC Invitational on 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 other was their loss to Dayton). It was only a difference of one free throw, but considering the Golden Eagles have been out-attempting their opponents by 12.25 throws a game, it was a huge factor.
However, the bigger concern will be limiting the oft-undersized Golden Eagles' fouls on the defensive end. It's a challenge Coach Buzz Williams is open about and knows is not going away.
"I think we'll fight an uphill battle, moreso than probably what most people think," said Williams in regard to staying out of foul trouble. "I think we've fought an uphill battle thus far in the 10 games we've played."
Reprive may be coming in the form of Western Carolina (5-3), who only draws an average of 13 fouls per game. However, the Catamounts counter that stat with a page out of Marquette's playbook – they use a high-pressure defense that is forcing 19 turnovers 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 and sports an impressive 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
The Catamounts are led on offense by 6'8", 205-pound junior Jake Robinson and his 15.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. However, Robinson does not do his damage inside. He'll remind Golden Eagles fans of another lanky sharpshooter – 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 if left open. Shooting an impressive 44.4 percent from deep, the 6'6" Giles' 14.1 points per game will give Wes Matthews and Lazar Hayward a second difficult defensive match-up when the two teams meet Friday night.
On the other end, 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 per game, Burke will have at least 25 pounds on whoever attempts to guard him inside.
Time Warner Sports will produce Friday night's affair, with it appearing on Channel 32 throughout Milwaukee and on ESPN Full Court for out-of-market fans. Tip off is set for 7:34 pm at the Bradley Center.