After the week long layoff, Marquette returns to action against second place DePaul tonight. They’ll have to play like we’re accustomed to seeing them play so far this season because DePaul is their toughest opponent in the Big East. The good news is that the Golden Eagles beat them pretty handily at home and can take the game plan from that game and try and replicate it here. However, road games are never easy so don’t expect another double-digit victory for the Golden Eagles. Though, I would gladly accept one.
Big East Game #10: at DePaul Blue Demons (15-6, 7-2 Big East)
DePaul owns a 42-27 all-time series lead against MU but Marquette has taken the last four including beating the Blue Demons in the Big East tournament final last year. Marquette and DePaul boast the top two offenses in the Big East and play very similarly: high tempo with the “we’re going to out-score you” mentality.
The first thing that stands out to me is DePaul’s junior guard Ashton Millender. She leads the Big East in threes making three on average per game with a 3-point percentage of 41.6%. That will be a huge area of focus for the Golden Eagles who need to run her off the 3-point line and force her to give the ball away, either to her teammates, or preferably as a turnover. The problem is that it doesn’t stop there. Millender isn’t even the highest scorer on the team. That spot belongs to Detroit native Mart’e Grays. Grays is averaging 14.5 points per game while Millender has 13.5. DePaul has five players averaging double-digit scoring. Amarah Coleman, Kelly Campbell, and Tanita Allen round out the list with 12.1, 10.7, and 10 points respectively. Sophomore Shante Stonewall isn’t doing too shabby either with 9.9 points per game and connecting on 23 of her 55 three pointers (41.8%). Let’s just put it this way...DePaul’s three point rate of 49.3% is ranked third in the nation according to HerHoopStats.
Like I said earlier, these teams have a very similar play style. They both rank in the top 40 nationally in points per 100 possessions and top 30 in possessions per 40 minutes. Sooo yeah, we’re going to see a lot of points and maybe not that much emphasis on defense. However, MU coach Carolyn Kieger has implemented a good full-court press in some game situations this season which has worked well for her team. Like DePaul, Marquette is also well-balanced offensively with five players averaging double-digit points. Advantage Marquette since they have the Big East leader in points per game in Allazia Blockton. MU and DPU also rank top 50 in 2-point percentage. Not only does DePaul have some three point shooting weapons, but they can also punish you in the paint with Grays and Allen. The only glaring difference between the two is that Marquette doesn’t have a lethal three point shooter.
Jeez DePaul seems really good, how are the Golden Eagles going to stop them? Well, they did when they played them at the Al McGuire holding them to just 20% from threes with Millender making only 2 of 8 attempts. That made all the difference in the game as MU cruised to a 93-81 victory. Obviously the offenses are going to be shooting at a very high clip, but the difference in this game is who will play better defensively. Both defenses currently rank second to last and last in the Big East allowing the most points per game (don’t worry DePaul holds the last spot). A lot of that has to do with how fast they play, but they’re both in the bottom half of the country in points per possession, too. Again, this game will come down to who can shut down the other team’s offense.
I would argue this is the biggest game of the season for the Golden Eagles. A win and they pull away from DePaul and build a two game cushion atop the Big East. A loss and they’ll have to share the top spot with DePaul with eight games left to go. Who likes to share? I sure don’t.