It’s time for Marquette women’s basketball to put the non-conference slate in the rear view mirror, both literally and metaphorically.
The Golden Eagles begin Big East play on Thursday night, so the non-con games are, in fact, over. Marquette also has to put their near misses from those games behind them and forget about them.
A one point road loss to New Mexico. A two point overtime loss to now-#7 Tennessee. An overtime loss to #2 Notre Dame.
The Golden Eagles are currently sitting on just one 25th place vote in the Associated Press top 25 poll, but they’re three favorable bounces of the rim away from probably being a top 10 team.
They have to put that behind them.
There are quality teams up and down the deck in the Big East, and this year is no different. Marquette’s first four league games are all against teams with postseason hopes at this point of the season. Without any notable non-conference wins on their resume right now, head coach Carolyn Kieger and her team can’t afford to have bad nights against quality opponents.
Allazia Blockton Watch: The junior from Milwaukee currently has 1,328 points, which is good enough for 13th all time. She should safely scoot past Heidi Ach (1,331) on Thursday night, and by the time Saturday night’s game is over, Blockton could be past Clare Barnard (1,356) and sitting in 11th place all time. With 16 Big East games left in her junior season.
Natisha Hiedeman Watch: Blockton’s classmate broke into the 1,000 club in Marquette’s game against Notre Dame and currently sits at 1,005 points and in 25th place all time. Kiesha Oliver (1,061) is up next, although that’s probably out of reach for the next two games.
Erika Davenport Watch: This one is a little bit more of a “we’re getting close” watch, but it’s still worth mentioning. Davenport is currently sitting on 918 career points, and it’s likely that she’ll become Marquette’s 27th 1,000 point scorer by the time the spring semester starts. Of course, if she wants to go knock down two 40 point games back to back and get there by Sunday morning, that’s fine by me.
Big East Game #1: vs St. John’s Red Storm (7-4)
Marquette has a 9-9 all time record against the Red Storm, with St. John’s winning five out of the last six games and both meetings last season.
Both losses to St. John’s were part of small skids in the schedule for the Golden Eagles last season. The first one came in New York, and sent MU to a 3-2 league record, which was not the kind of start that Marquette was hoping for after a quality non-con performance. The second time around came in Milwaukee, and was Marquette’s third loss in four games after snagging a 102-101 thriller of a win against DePaul.
Both games featured strong performances from Jade Walker, and while Walker was a senior last season, the ability of the Red Storm to repeat what she did (23-of-35 shooting) is still there. All 113 of Maya Singleton’s shots this season have come from inside the arc, and the senior from Maryland is shooting 47% from the field and averaging 12 points per game in a slowed down offense. Akina Wellere and Andrayah Adams will provide inside/outside pop for the lineup, but Marquette’s inability to defend St. John’s inside last year looms large after those issues were primary problems in MU’s non-conference losses.
The game may come down to two things: limiting St. John’s outside shooting and containing Tiana England. The Red Storm are connecting on 40% of their three-pointers, and if head coach Joe Tartamella gets his way, this game will tend towards 70 possessions instead of Marquette’s preference of 80. SJU’s ability to outshoot Marquette from distance could easily tip the tables in a slower game. England has been a revelation for Tartamella, as she currently leads the Big East in assists at more than 11 per contest. MU is going to need to force the ball out of her hands and make other players create their own offense.
Big East Game #2: vs Seton Hall Pirates (8-3)
Date: Saturday, December 30, 2017
Time: 6:30pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, WI
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: GameTracker
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette has an 11-7 all time record against Seton Hall, with the Golden Eagles taking three of the last four. SHU head coach Tony Bozzella has never beaten Marquette in the Al McGuire Center, with his only win at the facility coming in last year’s 8/9 game in the Big East tournament.
It appears that the Pirates have officially bounced back from what could easily be called a disappointing season in 2016-17. They need just four more wins to match last year’s overall total, and given how competitive they have been this season up to this point, it seems likely that they’ll finish in the top half of the Big East for sure.
The key component has been graduate transfer Donnaizha Fountain. The Boston native leads the team in scoring (14.5 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg), which is a hell of a thing for a player who wasn’t on the squad last season. Marquette will need to cut Fountain off from scoring inside, because that’s where she’s doing most of her damage. She’s not a particularly efficient scorer, putting up 13 shots per game to get those 14 points, and she’s notably poor (24%) from behind the arc. Fountain also leads the team in free throw attempts, which makes it doubly important to keep her away from the interior. No close shots = no fouls = no chance to earn points with the clock stopped.
While MU is busy doing that, they’re also going to have to keep tabs on JaQuan Jackson. The redshirt senior is second on the team in scoring, but she’s also their primary shooter. Jackson accounts for 27% of their long range attempts, and she connects on 45% of them. Fountain can’t be allowed inside, and Jackson can’t be left free to shoot.
If the non-conference slates are any indication, Marquette is going to have to play two different styles in these two games. St. John’s is going to try to slow things down, while Seton Hall will be more than happy to run with the Golden Eagles. We will have to wait and see to find out how MU responds to these two very distinct challenges on their home floor.