I usually use this space to set the context of the upcoming Marquette game in one way or another, but I think that Marquette’s 8-2 record stands for itself at this point. On top of that, I kind of just did that for Saturday’s game against Green Bay, and I don’t want to be too repetitive here. On top of that, this game is the teeny tiny “break” game in Marquette’s streak of five NCAA tournament quality opponents in six games, so setting the tone of what this game means isn’t quite as important. It’s a home game, and MU has proven that they can take care of business at home as they need to do on Monday night.
Instead, I want to expand on one thing that I bumped up against briefly in the Green Bay recap and then just gush about one of Marquette’s players. First up, the expanding.
On Saturday, Marquette found themselves with a 44-19 halftime lead because Isabelle Spingola was leading all scorers with 12 points. I love this particular aspect of Marquette basketball under Carolyn Kieger for a number of reasons that are all interlocking. Kieger quite clearly preaches a style of play that means that the team is only operating at peak capacity on offense when all five women on the floor are sharing the ball. That’s how you end up with things like four players tallying at least 29 assists so far this year. That’s the kind of ongoing mentality that results in a player that came in averaging just over six points per game holding onto 12 at the halfway point. She’s open, she’s hot, feed her. It’s made all the more impressive by the fact that Spingola averages less than 17 minutes per game this year. She’s a perfectly capable bench option for Kieger this season, but because she was left unattended in Green Bay’s defensive scheme, her teammates got her the ball, and once she started putting down shots, they kept getting her the ball. It doesn’t matter that the five core seniors on this team are going to have to do the heavy lifting most of the time. It doesn’t matter that Spingola isn’t one of those five. She was the hot hand, and no matter who Kieger put out on the floor with her, they did their job to get Spingola good shots to finish with 17 points and guide the way to an early dominating lead.
And now, the gushing.
At the end of the third quarter, Danielle King got Allazia Blockton the ball as time was about to expire. It was obvious that Blockton was going to have to be the one to get the shot off to beat the horn at the end of the period, so I looked at the most obvious place in the Al McGuire Center to see if she was going to make the shot: At her feet.
Blockton was exactly where you want her to be for that shot. Right at the corner of the free throw line and the lane, aka “the elbow.” She’s damn near automatic when she gets space to rise up on the elbow J, and when I looked and saw that her feet were at the elbow, I knew the shot was in. I said it out loud, possibly before the ball even left her hands. It went down, Marquette went up 60-39. Yeah, it was a meaningless basket in the big picture of the game, but it’s just another “how is she this good??” moment while watching and cheering for Allazia Blockton, the Big East’s reigning Player of the Year.
She’s always been able to get to the rim, and those elbow J’s are money every time. What’s been most impressive about her this year is her accuracy from outside the arc. She’s never been a true threat to shoot from out there in her first three years, although you’d be comfortable with her doing it. Blockton was a 35% career long range shooter coming into this season, but just 2% of her shots were out there. Even last year, when she shot 39%, it was still less than 20% of her field goal attempts. This year? Blockton is shooting 43% from behind the arc, and her 47 attempts constitute 32% of her shots. How are you supposed to defend that? She can get to the rim seemingly at will, her pull up at the elbow is devastating, and now she can just jab you in the eye from outside if you give her 18 inches of space. What are you supposed to do with that? It’s wildly unfair, and that’s before you fold in her passing and rebounding, not to mention the threat level of her teammates.
I miss her already, and Big East play hasn’t even started.
Game #11: vs Binghamton Bearcats (5-6)
This is the first ever meeting between Marquette and Binghamton. That’s fun. Even as special and historic as this meeting is, I presume that noted Binghamton alumnus Tony Kornheiser will not be in attendance. That’s a bummer.
I get the sense that this will not be a fun evening for Binghamton. The Bearcats had a Sunday afternoon date with #2 Notre Dame, and according to sources in South Bend, BU took a 103-53 loss to fall under .500 on the season. It’s their third straight loss, but the first of the trio that was non-competitive. Binghamton will have roughly 27 hours to travel to Milwaukee, sleep, eat, and get ready to play a team that 1) wants to play every game at 80 possessions or so and 2) is actively attempting to run every opponent out of the gym with Saturday’s win over Green Bay doing nothing to slow down MU’s double-digit average margin of victory at home this year.
Usually when putting together these previews, I mix together a combination of stats from the team’s official site and HerHoopStats.com. That’s going to prove to be a little bit complicated here, as Binghamton has picked up two wins from two non-Division 1 games this season. Thus, HHS is only registering eight games played for them as they also haven’t updated with the Notre Dame contest, either. Keep that in mind as I poke around here.
Competing on the interior is going to be the most difficult aspect for the Golden Eagles on Monday night. Binghamton is a top 100 defensive rebounding rate team in the country per HHS, and they’re #63 in terms of block rate. That’s pretty impressive! The Bearcats have a trio of women averaging at least five rebounds per game, led by Rebecca Carmody at 7.2 per contest. The 5’9” senior from Waymart, Pennsylvania, is averaging 8.2 rebounds in the games tallied on Her Hoop Stats, and ranks #39 in the country in defensive rebounds per game. That converts into a a top 270 rate, so she’s clearly good enough to do some serious damage even without a notable height advantage. Carmody also leads the team in scoring at 13.8 per game, and she’s not entirely just an interior player with 45 of her 141 shot attempts coming from behind the three-point line.
In terms of those blocks, Marquette will have to keep an eye on what Carly Boland is up to on the floor. The 6’1” junior is listed as a guard on BU’s website, but the New York native leads the team with 15 blocks on the season, and her totals in their D1 contests has her ranking in the top 400 in the country on HHS. Without film to review on the Bearcats, I can’t tell you exactly how she’s ending up with those blocks, but if she’s getting them the same way that Natisha Hiedeman is getting blocks (she leads MU with 7 this year), then the Golden Eagles will have to be careful when they’re getting out in transition.
Binghamton isn’t a particularly good three-point shooting team at 30.8% as a team, but Lizzy Spindler can not be left alone. The 5’8” sophomore lets fly nearly four times a game and she’s connecting on 49% on the year. That’s the kind of ability that can keep BU in a game regardless of the capabilities of the opponent, so someone is going to have to deny her open looks.