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2018 Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament Preview: #1 Marquette vs #8 Butler

The Golden Eagles head to Chicago to defend their tournament crown.

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Butler Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

2018 Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament Quarterfinals

#1 Marquette Golden Eagles vs #8 Butler Bulldogs

Date: Sunday, March 4, 2018
Time: Noon Central
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: GameTracker?
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Season Series: Marquette won, 2-0
All Time Series: Marquette leads, 11-7

Marquette kicks off their defense of their 2017 Big East tournament title with a quarterfinal matchup against Butler. The Golden Eagles reached the quarterfinals by way of a bye thanks to being the #1 seed in the tournament and regular season co-champions. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, had to go to overtime to beat Providence on Saturday evening in the first round. Thanks to a 21 point outing from Kristen Spolyar and a double-double from Tori Schickel, the Bulldogs rallied to tie the game in the fourth before outscoring the Friars 11-5 in the extra session.

The two contests between Marquette and Butler this season went two completely different directions, although perhaps just one play is the cause. See, Marquette earned a 69-67 victory in the first meeting at the Al McGuire Center, but that game may have wildly shifted when Erika Davenport left the game with a bone bruise. At the time she went diving out of bounds after a loose ball, Marquette was up 15 with 4:23 left in the second quarter. The lead dipped to eight before halftime, to six at the end of the third, and then Butler led by four with 1:56 to play. Most of this is because Butler’s Tori Schickel ran wild after halftime, essentially because Davenport wasn’t there to counter her in the post. However, it was Schickel herself that would be Marquette’s saving grace. When she forgot about the differential between the shot clock and the game clock with two seconds left, she walked with the ball when she heard the horn.... except it was the shot clock going off even though she had gained possession after a Marquette airball. Travel, MU ball, BANG, Allazia Blockton layup, Golden Eagles win in regulation.

The game down in Indianapolis got off to a bad start for the Golden Eagles, with Butler leading by as many as eight in the first quarter. That’s about as well as things went for the Bulldogs, though, as Marquette went on a 17-8 run to take their first lead of the game on a triple from Natisha Hiedeman early in the second quarter. By halftime, that one point lead had grown to nine. By the start of the fourth, the lead was 17. Butler popped off with a 10-2 run to get it back to single digits, but Marquette responded with an 8-2 run of their own to reassert control.

While Marquette will be led by Allazia Blockton, the 2018 Big East Player of the Year, the Golden Eagles will be comfortable with scoring coming from anywhere on the court. Three MU players hit double digits in the first meeting, topped by 25 from Blockton, while four players got at least 10 in the second encounter with Danielle King as the guiding light with 25 of her own. That doesn’t even touch on the contributions of Davenport, Hiedeman, or Amani Wilborn, who was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2017 iteration of this tournament.

Butler’s goal will be first to try and slow Marquette down, as the Golden Eagles try to play north of 75 possessions per game, per Her Hoop Stats, and Butler’s more comfortable with that number under 70. The Bulldogs aren’t a particularly strong shooting team, but Marquette will have to watch out for leading scorer Whitney Jennings. Nearly half of her attempts this season are from behind the three point line, and the Iowa transfer knocks down 36% of them. Marquette does seem to have Jennings figured out, though, as she shot a combined 7-for-31 (23%) against the Golden Eagles, and just 4-of-14 (29%) from behind the arc.

Butler’s slowed down style is largely to accommodate Schickel, who is second on the team in scoring and is just barely missing out on averaging a double-double at 16.4 points and 9.5 rebounds. Given the chance to score inside, she will more than likely do so, as Marquette learned all too well during the game in Milwaukee. The Golden Eagles have shown the ability to mitigate her impact on the game over the past three seasons, and as long as they can do so again, they’ll be playing on Monday.

The winner of this game advances to Monday’s tournament semifinals. They’ll face the winner of the 4/5 game that pits St. John’s against Creighton. That game will air on FS1 on Monday afternoon.