Well, here we go. It’s Big East schedule time. Marquette women’s basketball has their sights set on a second straight Big East regular season title, and the march to that trophy begins on Saturday afternoon at the McGuire Center.
We’ve talked over and over about the importance of the last six games of the non-conference schedule for Marquette. It’s hard to overstate the importance of stacking up wins on the regular when it comes to league play, both in terms of the quest for the title and in terms of putting MU in position to be a top 16 seed in the NCAA tournament come March. However, instead of repeating all of that here, I’m going to take a break from that and bring everyone up to speed on where the Golden Eagles are in terms of chasing down some all-time records.
Allazia Blockton has already broken Krystal Ellis’ program record. She has 1,983 points, which means she needs just three more points to surpass Jerel McNeal’s record for any Marquette basketball player and just 17 more to become the first MU player, male or female, to score 2,000 points.
Natisha Hiedeman has moved into 12th place all time, and is on pace to get to #5 by the end of the regular season. Erika Davenport sits at #16 right now and projects to get to 12th. Amani Wilborn and Danielle King are neck-and-neck at #24 and #25, and both look like they’ll get into the top 20 and surpass head coach Carolyn Kieger’s mark of 1,277.
Erika Davenport is currently Marquette’s #7 all time rebounder at 870, and she’s juuuuuuust barely short of a pace to become the fourth woman to yank down 1,000 rebounds by the end of the regular season. Depending on how deep MU’s postseason run goes, she could end up as #3 by the time the season ends. Allazia Blockton is #12 all time at 689, and she should move into the top 10 by season’s end.
At this point of their senior seasons, Amani Wilborn, Natisha Hiedeman, and Danielle King have all clustered together in the top 10 all time at 7, 8, and 9 respectively within 35 assists of each other. Hiedeman is rapidly outpacing her classmates this season, but all of them look to be able to pass up Nikki Taggart’s #5 all time total of 421 by the end of the regular season. Allazia Blockton is four assists away from cracking into the top 13 and should end up in the top 10.
Natisha Hiedeman has already locked down the all-time record and has surpassed Lori Goerlitz’s old record by 14. She seems to be easily on pace to become the first MU player to hit 250 career threes, and 280 is within her sights.
Danielle King, Allazia Blockton, and Isabelle Spingola are all on the climb and chasing Heidi Bowman to enter the top 12 all-time. King is averaging one made triple per game, so she’s on track to get there once the postseason gets underway. Blockton is up near two per game and is pace to pass Erin Monfre in 11th place by the end of the regular season. Spingola’s recent 13-for-19 outburst against Green Bay and Binghamton drove her up the list very quickly to 76 for her career. She’s only on pace to get to 115 by the end of the regular season, but if she has a few more outbursts and if MU gets a deep postseason run, she could scoot past Bowman and maybe Monfre as well.
Big East Game #1: vs Providence Friars (8-4, 0-0)
Date: Saturday, December 29, 2018
Time: 2pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, WI
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette is 13-5 all time against Providence. Every meeting has taken place since the Golden Eagles joined the Big East. MU has won seven out of the last eight games, including both contests last season.
Thanks to three wins in the Friar Holiday Classic, Providence enters league play on a three game winning streak and with wins in five of their last six games. I’m not going to try and trick you into believing that they’ve been knocking out heavy hitters here, but wins are wins for a team that went 10-21 a year ago with a 3-15 record in Big East play. If they just match that conference record this year, that will be something of a step forward for head coach Jim Crowley.
PC has a pair of double digit scorers in Jovana Nogic (14.3 ppg) and Chanell Williams (10.3 ppg) as well as an assortment of role players who average somewhere between four and nine points a game. They’re an exceptional three-point shooting team, knocking in 37% of their attempts, which ranks #33 in the country per HerHoopStats.com. Nogic is the most prolific shooter, with 102 of her 147 total attempts coming from long range, and she hits on 38% of them. Her 102 attempts are right about half of Providence’s total attempts as a team, so item #1 will be stopping her from getting shots off. Marquette is well aware of what she can do if left unattended after she went 7-for-11 in January 2017, so devising a game plan to stop that should be at the forefront of the coaching staff’s minds.
The Friars have been a quality defensive club to this point of the season. Her Hoop Stats marks them as the #50 defense in the country, and they’re getting there largely based on their shooting defense. They have the #14 effective field goal percentage defense in the country and the #12 three-point shooting defense as well. It will be an interesting test for the Golden Eagles, who are one of the best shooting teams in the country. We will have to keep an eye on what MU can do in transition against Providence’s defense. The Friars are such a terrible offensive rebounding team (#319) that I have to presume that Crowley has them essentially abandoning that aspect of the game in order to set up on defense. That’s a tactic that would be particularly valuable against MU, but the Golden Eagles are adept at throwing big outlet passes to counter that.
Big East Game #2: vs Creighton Bluejays (6-5, 0-0)
Marquette is 7-12 all time against Creighton. The series dates back to 1986 with the Jays taking the first four meetings. MU has won three of the last four, including last year’s contest in the Big East tournament semifinals. Both teams won on the road in the regular season last year.
Creighton picked up two fairly solid wins to wrap up non-conference play by beating South Florida and Vanderbilt at a tournament before Christmas in Orlando. They don’t qualify as good wins, at least not at this point of the calendar, but the wins may have been more beneficial to the Jays in terms of mentality than anything else. The wins swung them from 4-5 on the year to 6-5 heading into league play, and it has them with wins in five of their last six, and that could be fairly important. CU drew the short straw and has to open their conference schedule with the two co-favorites in the Big East and to make matters worse, both games are on the road. It’s not a fun time to start league play 0-2, but that’s what the Jays are staring at right now. It would be even worse if they had split those Orlando games or even worse, went 0-2.
This game will be a clash of styles, as Creighton likes to play it slow. They’re an incredibly effective offensive team, ranking in Her Hoop Stats’ top 30 in both three-point shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage. Head coach Jim Flanery is banking on that offensive firepower to combine with the slowed down tempo to cover up the fact that Creighton just isn’t good on defense. When you check out their HHS page, it’s just a whole bunch of red numbers over on the defensive shooting ranks. Much like Providence, the Jays are either atrocious at offensive rebounding or intentionally abandoning their shots to get back on defense. It’s a pretty solid plan with the shooting ability on the CU roster, and we’ll see if it’s effective against Marquette’s transition game.
Audrey Faber is the name to watch for, as she leads the Jays in scoring (17.2 ppg) and rebounding (5.6 rpg). She’s a 38% long range shooter and leads the team in attempts at just over seven per game. Jaylyn Agnew has missed a few games this season, but she’s been in the lineup lately and coming pretty close to matching Faber at 13.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. She’s a better shooter than Faber at 47% from long range, and she’s letting them go to the tune of just over six per game. Agnew is technically leading Creighton in assists, as her average (3.3) beats out Faber (2.9), but Faber has the lead in total helpers thanks to Agnew’s four missed games.
Let’s keep it simple here: If Marquette can put the clamps on Creighton’s outside game, things are going to go in MU’s direction pretty fast. If CU is missing shots behind the arc, they’re not going to try and rebound them, and that’s going to lead to quick chances for the Golden Eagles.