After a rough non-conference schedule where Marquette did not rack up a single quality victory, things have radically changed for Carolyn Kieger and her team after two Big East games. The Golden Eagles currently sit in a tie for second place in the conference, but that’s more of a technicality than anything else. Creighton moved to 3-0 thanks to a win over Seton Hall on Tuesday night, so they’re officially in first place ahead of both Marquette and DePaul, both of whom are sitting at 2-0. Those are the only three teams that are unbeaten in league play so far, and it’s also not a total shock that they’re the three atop the standings.
Marquette’s win over St. John’s in the Big East opener is now their best win of the season, as the Red Storm are currently in the top 50 of the NCAA’s RPI calculation. MU might have been a little lucky to get that win, as they had to struggle through overtime to get it, but a win is still a win. The win over Seton Hall on Saturday will likely end up as a decent win, even with the Pirates currently residing outside the top 100 in the RPI. The point is that it was very important for Marquette to get their legs underneath them in terms of beating quality opponents.
Why? Because their next two games are against those two teams that are atop the Big East standings with them. DePaul’s in the McGuire Center on Thursday night, and then MU will follow that up with a trip to Omaha to face the Bluejays on Sunday afternoon. One or both of these games could end up deciding who wins the Big East regular season title when March rolls around, and it almost definitely will end up deciding who gets the #1 seed in the Big East tournament.
Two games in a four day span before January 10th carries that much weight for the Golden Eagles. Whatever lessons they learned about putting quality opponents away against SJU and SHU will play a major role in the next two games for Marquette. But MU can’t look forward to the Bluejays, because putting the Blue Demons away will take their full attention and commitment. One thing at a time....
Allazia Blockton Watch: The junior guard is up to 1,376 career points. That gives her the 11th highest point total in program history, surpassing Clare Barnard’s 1,356. It’s going to be a while before she gets to #10 all time, as Katherine Plouffe is at 1,551.
Natisha Hiedeman Watch: The junior guard added 28 points in MU’s first two Big East games to move to 1,033 career points. Kiesha Oliver (1,061) at #24 all-time is up next, although that’s probably unlikely that she’ll get there on Thursday night.
Erika Davenport Watch: The junior forward is up to 947 career points, and she remains on track to become the 27th 1,000 point scorer in program history. With that said, she probably won’t get there on Thursday, but she keeps creeping closer and closer.
Big East Game #3: vs DePaul Blue Demons (10-4, 2-0 Big East)
Date: Thursday, January 4, 2018
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, WI
Television: Fox Sports Wisconsin
Streaming: The Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: GameTracker
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette is 24-42 all time against DePaul, but last season was a major moment in the rivalry. Before the 2016-17 season, DePaul had won seven straight against Marquette, but the Golden Eagles took all three meetings against the Blue Demons last season, including the 86-78 victory in the Big East tournament championship game.
DePaul kind of had the same non-conference performance that Marquette did. They went out and challenged themselves, but did not put a quality win up on the board while undergoing those challenges. More importantly for the Blue Demons, they have to talk themselves into believing that losing to Northern Colorado and Florida Gulf Coast are actually quality foes. They are, but it’s hard to actually say that out loud relative to Marquette’s losses all coming against teams getting top 25 votes right now.
Because of the travel partner system, DePaul kicked off conference play with the same two foes as Marquette, just in the opposite order. They also had relatively the same results: an easy 23 point win over Seton Hall and a rugged nine point win over St. John’s. Well, maybe rugged is not the right word. DePaul led by 22 points late in the first half and were up 21 with six minutes left to play. The Red Storm made that look much more interesting by the final horn than the game actually was.
If Marquette wants to beat DePaul, they’re going to have to defend the three-point line. 49.7% of their field goal attempts have been from behind the arc this season, and that is the third highest percentage of total shots in the country, according to Her Hoop Stats. To make that worse, DePaul is ranked #59 in the country in team three-point percentage at 35.9%. They shoot a ton of them, and they make a ton of them.
Marquette is going to have to keep Ashton Millender (42%), Mart’e Grays (41%), and Chante Stonewall (54%) within arm’s reach at all times, although Stonewall is the least likely of the three shooters at just a shade over two tries per game. If just one of them gets loose and hot, it can spell doom for the Golden Eagles very quickly. The good news, such as it is, is that DePaul doesn’t rebound their misses very well, ranking #261 in the country in Offensive Rebounding Rate. If they’re only making 36% of their threes, that means that 64% of them are misses, and that’s an awful lot of shots that the Golden Eagles can rip down and then get out on the break. The only downside there is that DePaul is just as comfortable with a high octane pace if not more so, as they average three possessions more per game than Marquette.