Marquette Golden Eagles
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REGION: Mideast SEED: 9
COACH: Terri Mitchell CONFERENCE: Big East
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
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The 5-foot-6 sophomore guard led Marquette in scoring in eight games, scoring at least 20 points in three contests and going for double figures in 16 games. But setting up her teammates seems to be what Kieger does best. She ranks 21st in the nation with 5.9 assists per game. Kieger, who has a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio, dished out at least eight assists in nine games, including a season-best 11 in an OT win on Jan. 18.
ANALYSIS BY ESPN'S STACEY DALES-SCHUMAN
Coach Terri Mitchell's Marquette Golden Eagles made darn sure to make a statement in the Conference USA tournament that the NCAA Selection Committee couldn't overlook.
After marching right through Tulane, they met DePaul, which they had gone 1-1 against in a three-week stretch of February, including the regular-season finale. And five days after beating the Blue Demons at home, Marquette did it again -- this time in the C-USA quarterfinals to catapult to the next round, where the Golden Eagles finally fell to a sizzling Houston squad.
It's safe to say those two big-time victories against 20th-ranked DePaul might have been the decisive factor in this hot-trotting crew's invitation to this year's Dance-A-Thon.
One of the primary keys to Marquette's play lies in the hands of sophomore point guard Carolyn Kieger. When Mitchell introduced a faster, more aggressive system last season, it was a stop-and-go learning process. This year, Kieger is leading marvelously with a six-assist average and increased 10.4 points per game. Her ability to score while running the offense is critical to the team's overall balance.
Some of that balance comes from senior guard Kelly Schwerman, who leads the team with 12 points. This gym rat loves to drop bombs from the land of triple, attempting almost seven treys each time out.
Though Marquette gets a broad scoring and rebounding spread throughout the lineup, particularly from its guard play, 6-2 senior power forward Crystal Weaver is enjoying the kind of year thus far that she deserves. Known as the "blue-collar worker," Weaver leads the team with 7.2 caroms and nearly 50 percent field-goal accuracy. Her leadership, like Kieger's, has been paramount to the evolution of the Golden Eagle club.
Although Marquette doesn't necessarily generate massive scoring totals, the Golden Eagles have relied tremendously on the play of their defense. Case in point, they are ranked No. 1 in C-USA, holding rivals to just 57 points and only 38 percent from the floor. Since this conference in particular features such pressing offenses, there is no question that these numbers speak volumes to the work that Mitchell and her team have endured.
As with any good defense, there must be solid block-outs to complete the possession. Marquette also ranks at the top of a very athletic conference in this category, allowing just 34 rebounds per game.