In order to beat the #6 team in the country, you need a lot of things to go right for you. In order to beat a two-time national runner-up, you need a lot of things to go right for you. In order to beat a national title contender in their own barn, you need a lot of things to go right for you.
All of those things were in play for Marquette women’s basketball on Thursday night in Mississippi, and they definitely did have a lot of things going right for them.
Just not everything.
Marquette leaves Starkville with an 87-82 loss to #6 Mississippi State, dropping their record on the year to 6-2.
Quite honestly, this was a masterfully played and coached game by the Golden Eagles. They just were missing that certain something that puts you over the edge against a great team when you’re on the road. That’s fine. MU was right there with the Bulldogs all the way, and what else can you really ask for?
It was an instant classic of a game, one that should be talked about far and wide in women’s basketball circles. We saw eight ties and 25 lead changes. Twenty-five! Marquette led by as many as eight points, and Mississippi State’s biggest lead of the game was just five points, although not just the five point margin at the end of the game. Hell, when it came right down to it, Mississippi State had to beat Marquette. The Golden Eagles had a 79-78 lead with 1:59 to play on a bucket by Danielle King and a pair of Natisha Hiedeman freebies with 17 seconds remaining had the Golden Eagles trailing 83-82. MSU had to make play after play after play to finally put Marquette away, and credit where credit is due: They made the plays and deserved to win the game.
Coming in, the biggest deal in this game was going to be how Marquette handled Teaira McCowan and Anriel Howard. Those two women can score in bunches and rebound in bunches, and the Golden Eagles were going to have to deal with that in some manner. Howard led everyone in scoring with 29 points on the night, and she added 12 rebounds as well. The 6’7” McCowan was, to a certain extent, even more imposing, scoring 24 points and ripping down 18 rebounds with a full 10 of those coming on the offensive end. As a team, MSU grabbed 47% of their own misses, and as one of the best rebounding teams in the country, everything in this paragraph probably should have spelled doom for the Golden Eagles.
Except.... They just never went away and had a lead on MSU for nearly 18 minutes of the game. With Howard and McCowan casting the biggest shadows on the other side, it amazingly was 5’5” Danielle King that provided the most sunlight to shoo them away. The Chicago native got 27 points on 13-for-21 shooting and just kept coming up big for the Golden Eagles over and over and over and over. She was fearless as Marquette executed the somewhat obvious gameplan: Run the Bulldogs out of the game, literally. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that’s watched Carolyn Kieger’s teams play for more than five minutes that Options 1-12 against a team with a major size advantage was GO FASTER. So that’s what Marquette did, and even with MSU head coach Vic Schaefer having to be well aware it was coming, it worked constantly for Marquette. I wasn’t keeping careful count or anything, but at least half of King’s points had to come from fast break pullups in the lane or fast break layups. Marquette was constantly pushing the pace out faster than McCowan could move, allowing the much smaller King to get all kinds of space to operate with in transition.
I do have two complaints to make, and they were complaints I made at the time on the Twitter machine, and I want to readdress them here.
Teaira McCowan should have been ejected from the game in the fourth quarter.
In the second, she recorded a blocked shot on a layup attempt by Isabelle Spingola and then mean mugged the holy hell out of Spingola. I don’t mean from like 15 feet away either where it could have just been written off as celebration of some kind. The two women were about five feet apart at most and McCowan was just staring her down. That’s taunting, and it should have been a technical foul.
I’m willing to excuse that one, though, because it was just one tiny thing and if the referees felt it was best to just chat with McCowan to control the game, so be it. However, the lack of technical foul in the second led to the incident in the fourth quarter. With 1:43 left in the game, McCowan scored and was fouled by Danielle King. Fine, it is what it is..... right up until McCowan again stared down an opposing player, in this case King, and starting pointing and waving at her. Again, this is taunting, pure and simple. Textbook case. It should have been a technical foul, and it should have been her second of the game. It wasn’t though, and she remained in the game.
I’m not saying that this cost Marquette the game by any stretch of the imagination. The outcomes of basketball games rest on way more than just two non-calls in cases like these. On the flip side, rules are rules, and the technical foul rules about taunting are there for a reason. Thankfully the game didn’t get particularly chippy as a result of either of these actions by McCowan, but it could have, and that’s of no benefit to either team, both in terms of the fouls that it would have brought as well as the personal safety of the players.
Up Next: Marquette returns to the Lake Michigan area for their next contest, but not quite all the way back home to Milwaukee. They’ll be down in Evanston on Sunday afternoon to take on Northwestern. The Wildcats picked up two points in the most recent AP top 25 voting, but they’re coming off two straight losses, including against DePaul on Wednesday.