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Marquette Women’s Basketball Big East Preview: at St. John’s & at Seton Hall

The Golden Eagles head out on the road again with an eye on staying close to DePaul.

Barclays Center Classic Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

It would appear that it’s hard questions time for head coach Carolyn Kieger and her Marquette Golden Eagles.

It’s one thing to lose a home game to a team that was a co-favorite to win your league, even if you were picked to finish third. It’s another thing for Creighton to come into the McGuire Center and over the course of 40 minutes slowly pull away for a 20 point victory. Some bad losses like that you can explain: five bad minutes leads to a 13-0 run, bada bing, you lose by 20. That wasn’t the case against Creighton, as Marquette just watched the Bluejays’s taillights disappear into the distance.

If Marquette sees themselves as an NCAA tournament team and a Big East title contender, those kinds of losses can’t happen. Or, at least in this case, they can’t happen again. Kieger deftly danced around openly criticizing her team in her postgame commentary following Marquette’s win over Providence, as she altered her usual starting lineup. Allazia Blockton, the Big East’s second leading scorer, started the PC game (and the second half, by the way) on the bench, as did Natisha Hiedeman, the team leader in assists, and McKayla Yentz, MU’s lone senior. Don’t get it twisted: all three women still played at least 24 minutes against the Friars and the trio combined for 36 of MU’s 79 points, along with 11 rebounds and eight assists. They were a major component to Marquette winning that game, but the message has still been sent to the whole team: We win together or we lose alone.

It’s not like that’s a terribly complicated message for anyone paying attention to the team. Given the composition of the roster and Kieger’s lack of comfort level in playing this year’s newcomers, Marquette needs their core seven players to play quick and smart to win. They’ve looked at their best when they’re sharing the ball as much as possible, whether that’s long football-style passes on the break, or quick snap passes as one of MU’s talented wings takes it to the hole.

After saying all of this, it’s only fair to point out that MU is currently tied for second in the Big East at 3-1 with those self same Bluejays who turned around and lost to DePaul after bumping off Marquette. The Blue Demons are the last undefeated team in the conference at 4-0, and of course, MU still has two games left to play against them. On top of that, ESPN’s Charlie Creme updated his bracketology report on January 3rd, the day after the loss to Creighton. He has the Golden Eagles as a #9 seed.

This is a tournament team. They just need to play like it the rest of the season.

Big East Game #5: at St. John’s (10-4, 2-1 Big East)

When: Sunday, January 8, 2017, at 1pm Central
Where: Carnesecca Arena in New York, NY
Audio/Visual: The Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go has the video stream & there’s live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette has a 9-7 all time record against St. John’s. The Golden Eagles snapped a three game losing streak against the Red Storm by winning the second meeting between the two squads last season.

The Red Storm come into this game as winners in eight of their last nine games. Their only set back was in their league opener, when they dropped a 64-59 decision while visiting Seton Hall, their travel partner. That’s some pretty solid stuff, but they’ve got a big test on their plate in this next set of games. So far, their three league games have come against teams below them in the preseason poll, and, to their credit, they came away with three road wins. With Marquette and DePaul coming to the Big Apple for SJU’s first two home games in conference play, either St. John’s shows that they deserve a spot in the regular season title discussion, or they take a back seat to the top end of the league.

Or maybe they split the two games and we don’t really learn anything yet.

St. John’s kind of does everything by committee this season. Jade Walker’s their leading scorer at 12.9 points/game, but that’s only 17th best in the Big East. However, they have five players averaging at least five points every time out, and Imani Littleton is just barely under that cutoff at 4.9/game. No one dominates the glass, as that top six all average at least 3.5 rebounds, too. The distribution is heavily in the hands of Aaliyah Lewis, who is one of just two players in the Big East averaging more than five assists per contest.

St. John’s isn’t going to let fly from long range all that much, with less than 25% of their attempts coming from outside. Akina Wellere can not be left alone under any circumstances, because she leads the team in three-point attempts at 48, and she’s drained half of her attempts. She shoots it fewer than four times per game, but you can’t let her get going, either. In fact, Marquette can pretty much ignore everyone else as a shooter, because Walker’s the only other player who can hit threes with regularity, and she’s shown no indication to want to shoot it all that much with only eight attempts on the season.

Big East Game #6: at Seton Hall (8-6, 1-2 Big East)

When: Tuesday, January 10, 2017, at 6pm Central
Where: Walsh Gym in South Orange, NJ
Audio/Visual: The Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go has the video stream & there’s live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette has a 9-7 all time record against Seton Hall after going 1-2 against the Pirates in each of the last two seasons. Both of Marquette’s wins came in the McGuire Center, with the four losses being split with two at Walsh Gym and two in the Big East tournament quarterfinals.

The Pirate are on a bit of a struggle bus lately. While they got the win at home over St. John’s in their opener, they turned around and lost their next two on the road to Butler and Xavier. That gives them losses in three of their last five and five of their last nine games. Head coach Tony Bozzella has experienced a modicum of success in his first three years in South Orange, but it seems like this is going to be a down year for the Pirates if this keeps up.

Part of the problem for SHU this season has been keeping players on the court. Only four Pirates have played in all 14 of their games, and none of them have started in all 14 contests, either. Leading scorer JaQuan Jackson has played in 11 games this season and over the last three games, she’s picked up enough appearances to qualify for the Big East scoring race.... which she’s currently leading by 0.1 points per game over Marquette’s Allazia Blockton.

Seton Hall presents an interesting problem for Marquette in terms of rebounding. LaTecia Smith and Lubirdia Gordon both average at least 5.5 rebounds per game, with Gordon ranking 7th in the conference. At 6’4”, Gordon will definitely cause problems for Marquette.... except.... well, Seton Hall’s not a very good defensive rebounding team. The Pirates allow their opponents to vacuum up nearly 39% of their missed shots, the highest percentage in the entire conference. Marquette’s a great offensive rebounding team (2nd best in the Big East, grabbing 36% of their misses), and if Erika Davenport, the Big East’s best rebounder, gets going on the offensive glass, MU could easily leave South Orange with a victory.