Marquette's average scoring margin against teams ranked in the top 25 last year: -30, and that includes a 1 point loss at home to #13 Louisville.
Marquette's average scoring margin against teams ranked in the top 2 last year: -43 in two games against Connecticut and one against Notre Dame.
This year, Marquette returns almost the exact same team, minus departed senior Sarina Simmons. So, while the first four games of the 2013-14 season showed a lot of offensive firepower and a bit of tenacity in the win over #25 Vanderbilt, there was definitely a sense of trepidation heading into Sunday's home contest against #2 Duke.
But there was Marquette, matching Duke shot for shot at the under eight minute media time out, with the game tied at 19.
Unfortunately, star forward Katherine Plouffe had already picked up her second foul and had headed to the bench by that point. A put-back by Apiew Ojulu would be the only basket that Marquette would manage over the next 4:46 as Duke went on a 14-2 run to take a 12 point lead. Brooklyn Pumroy would drain a three pointer for the last basket of the half, so the Golden Eagles were only trailing by nine as they headed to the locker room.
While Marquette had come out of the locker room firing on all cylinders each of the last two games, this time they were playing the #2 team in the country. MU was able to cut the lead to just seven on a Katie Young three-ball less than three minutes into the half, and a jumper in the lane from Young with 15:30 to play made the deficit only eight points. Duke would answer that second basket with a 7-0 run and the lead would never dip below 11 again. Ultimately, it was points in the paint that doomed MU. The Blue Devils scored 26 points in close to the basket in the second half against just eight from Marquette.
But, at the end of the day, it was a 17 point loss, a far cry from the bloodbaths that transpired a year ago. Can we take this as a solid step forward for the women's basketball team? We will have to wait to see how they react in their next game...
Abbie Willenborg Player of the Game: Her season opening double-double streak is over, but it was clear that Katherine Plouffe was the best player on the floor for Marquette. She finished with 17 points on 8-13 shooting even though Duke had to focus on stopping her. Plouffe also grabbed eight rebounds and handed out two assists as well, and on top of that, even did a little coaching from the bench. When stuck on the pine (cushioned chair?) with two fouls in the first half and the referees tending to a monitor review, Plouffe was standing up and shouting down to the other end of the court for her teammates to huddle up until the refs restarted the action.
Clare Barnard Undersung Eagle of the Game: Yeah, this one's more complicated. Katie Young's third straight double-double doesn't qualify. I can't fake my way into Brooklyn Pumroy here with a 1/1 assist to turnover ratio. Arlesia Morse? 1-10 answers that one. Everyone's favorite Romanian, Cristina Bigica? Six turnovers. Without a player that really stood out, I'm going to give this one to the finest mascot in collegiate sports entertainment, Marquette's very own Golden Eagle. With hundreds of rubber ducks scattered on the court for the usual halftime Chuck-A-Duck contest, he selected the one closest to the bulls-eye... and then promptly lost his grip on it and it bounced away from him. But he kept his eagle eye (literally) on the duck and picked the correct one back up to make sure the right lucky winner got their $100.
Up Next: Marquette heads to Las Vegas over Thanksgiving weekend for the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout. First up: Tennessee Tech (2-2) will be their opponent on Friday before they face Katherine Plouffe's twin sister Michelle and Utah (1-2) on Saturday.