Let’s focus on what’s important here.
On Sunday evening, #22 Marquette women’s basketball beat back a Michigan squad that was earning votes in last week’s Associated Press top 25 poll, picking up the 85-74 victory. Marquette moves to 6-1 on the season and notches their first definitive quality victory on the season. Sorry/not sorry, South Dakota State, jury’s still out on you.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s shine the spotlight on what happened.
Facts are facts: Marquette led by 26 at the end of the third quarter, 74-48, and led by 28 after the first basket of the fourth quarter. Marquette led by 23 halfway through the quarter.
Marquette won by 11.
Michigan outscored Marquette 17-5 over the final five minutes of the game, and MU’s points came on two shots: A Danielle King triple with 2:14 to go and an Erika Davenport putback with 50 seconds left. The Wolverines did largely whatever they wanted to over the final five minutes, and Marquette showed no interest in defending or attacking strongly.
The good news is that MU was never in danger of losing the lead. Michigan just didn’t have the time once they started their major push with five minutes left. However, this ends up being eerily reminiscent of the previous game where UWM made essentially the exact same fourth quarter push on the Golden Eagles. Same thing, though: Just like the Wolverines, the Panthers never really threatened the lead, not really. However, when a team can explode out to a 10 point lead in the first 10 minutes and then expand that lead to 20 at halftime, you’d like to think they can close the door in a reasonable matter and not have to hope that they get the gate shut before the zombie horde gets one finger in between the door and the frame to keep it open.
If it was just this one game, you could brush it off. But it was two games in a row after Marquette showed the ability to maintain their major leads in their first four wins of the year. It also brings up memories of the loss to Miami where Marquette had repeated chances to complete the rally against the ‘Canes on their floor, but just couldn’t put the ball in the net.
Let’s focus on the good to wrap this thing up, shall we?
Marquette’s ability to win this game was going to come down to how they defended the 6’5” Hallie Thome, and to a larger extent, how they rebounded the ball against the entire Wolverines roster. Thome finished with 11 points and two rebounds. She was averaging 15 and 7 coming in, so that’s one hell of a job by Erika Davenport and Lauren Van Kleunen as the primary defenders, as well as everyone who contributed help defense on her. In terms of rebounding the ball against one of the best rebounding clubs in the country, MU did a wonderful job. The Golden Eagles wrapped up 46% of their missed shots on the evening against a UM team that is usually good to only allow 26% to their opponents per HerHoopStats.com. On the other end of the court, Michigan secured 28% of their misses, and they usually get to 41%. I don’t think I need to explain to you that both of those numbers are better than the season average for Marquette as well. That’s a perfectly executed gameplan by Carolyn Kieger and her team. It also didn’t hurt that Marquette was their usually excellent selves shooting the ball, and you don’t have to worry about rebounding when your shots are going down.
Even with Thome filling up the middle, Davenport led Marquette in scoring with a game-high 21 points, and she added eight rebounds, too. Allazia Blockton tossed in 18 as she got half her output from her 3-for-5 long range shooting. She’s now shooting 42% from long range this season, which yes, is a career best for the reigning Big East Player of the Year. Have fun defending her, y’all.
Up Next: In the immortal words of Jim Ross, business is about to pick up. On Thursday night, MU takes their freshly minted #18 ranking down south to face off against #6 Mississippi State. YEAH. The Bulldogs are 8-0 on the season, but the closest they’ve come to being challenged in any of their games was Sunday’s 67-49 victory on the road against #10 Texas. They’ve run everyone else that they’ve played off the court, but uh, well, to put it nicely, they also haven’t played anyone else particularly of note.