The Big East emerged from the first set of conference games with four undefeated teams. The second set of conference games has now wrapped up, and the league is left with just one undefeated team: YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles.
Now, sure, Marquette caught a break in the schedule, as they played travel partner DePaul in the second set, meaning that they’ve only played three games while six teams in the conference have played four times already. Of course, calling that “a break in the schedule” is dependent on not acknowledging that the Blue Demons are perfectly capable of winning the regular season title yet again this season. Marquette had three quality tests right out of the gate against St. John’s, Seton Hall, and DePaul, and they passed all three, two with flying colors.
However, all three were at home, and for the first time in league play, Marquette will be on the road on Sunday afternoon. That changes things slightly, and with their eyes on a conference title, the message from head coach Carolyn Kieger and her staff will be clear: The Golden Eagles can not afford to slip up on the road this season. That’s not to say that losing to Creighton on Sunday would be bad. The Bluejays are a good team, and will almost assuredly be in the postseason in March. However, Marquette had Creighton beat in Omaha a year ago, but ended up leaving middle America with a loss.
You can read the full rundown of what happened in our recap from last January, but the short version is this: Marquette coughed away a five point lead with less than a minute to go because of a series of incredibly easy to avoid mistakes. If literally just one of about six things that Marquette did goes differently, the Golden Eagles hold on to win. Instead, the Bluejays flat out stole a win. It’s just one of a handful of times on the road last season where Marquette let a win get away from them in one fashion or another. Marquette has been handed the advantage in the league standings early this season. It’s up to them to protect it now, and that means beating contenders to the throne on the road.
Allazia Blockton Watch: The junior guard is up to 1,401 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 17 points in MU’s first two Big East games to move to 1,050 career points. Kiesha Oliver (1,061) at #24 all-time is up next, and Sarina Simmons at 1,073 isn’t out of the question against the Jays.
Erika Davenport Watch: After scoring 11 points against DePaul, the junior forward is up to 958 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 Sunday, but she keeps creeping closer and closer.
Big East Game #4: at Creighton Bluejays (9-5, 3-1)
Date: Sunday, January 7, 2018
Time: 1pm Central
Location: D.J. Sokol Arena, Omaha, NE
Television: FS2, with John Fanta & Kim Adams on the call
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette has a 5-11 all time record against the Bluejays after beating them in the Big East tournament semifinals last season. That win snapped a three game Creighton winning streak, but the Jays have also won five of the last seven meetings.
Creighton comes into this game fresh off an overtime loss to St. John’s on Friday night in New York. That was the first loss in league play for the Jays, and just their second loss in their last eight games. It’s both a game where Creighton gave away a lead (they led by six in the first quarter) and made a comeback (they trailed by 10 in the third) before finally falling in overtime. Perhaps the worst aspect of the loss for the Bluejays is that it went in the record book as the first win of the conference slate for St. John’s. Then again, even that’s not as bad as it sounds, as the Red Storm opened with the Marquette/DePaul pairing that the Jays now face in their next two games.
It was a double whammy of shooting issues that cost the Jays that game. On one hand, Creighton shot an effective field goal percentage of just 45.7% against the Red Storm, while they rank 38th in the country at 51.1% for the season according to Her Hoop Stats. On defense, the Jays allowed SJU to connect for a 48.4% eFG%, which isn’t that far from their usual defensive effort of 44.4%. However, that number ranks just #154th in the country, so when Creighton stars letting teams do better than that, their offense is going to start to struggle to keep up with it.
For the record, Marquette ranks 40th in the country in eFG% per Her Hoop Stats, coming in at a clean 51% even.
If Marquette wants to shut down the Jays’ offense, that effort is going to focus on two women: Audrey Faber and Jaylyn Agnew. The pair combine to score over 33 points per game, and they do it with a healthy dose of three-point shooting. Both women are shooting over 42% from behind the arc, and more than half of Agnew’s shots are from back there. Creighton doesn’t rely on the three as much as DePaul does, but launching 41% of your shots from long distance is still a lot. Marquette did an excellent job running the Blue Demons off the line last time out, and they’ll need to do that again here.
At a glance, this game would appear to be a clash of styles, as Marquette and Carolyn Kieger are going to try to go high octane (77.4 possessions via Her Hoop Stats, #23 in the country), while the Bluejays are downtempo (64.5 possessions, #344 out of 349). However, Marquette’s desire to go faster is not necessarily an advantage for the Golden Eagles here. Creighton head coach Jim Flanery has played eight women in all 14 contests this season, and since league play started, he’s gone 11 deep in every game. Even if Marquette can accelerate the game faster than Creighton would prefer, the Jays are going to be comfortable rotating fresh legs out there to keep up with the Golden Eagles.