Marquette women’s basketball was thisclose to an upset of #10 Mississippi State on Monday night, finally falling by a score 74-68. That score really doesn’t tell you what happened, though, as this game had nine ties and 19 lead changes throughout its 40 minutes of action. This is how close Marquette was to winning this game: The Golden Eagles held a five point lead, their largest of the game, on three different occasions including when Jordan King capitalized on her own steal to put MU up 61-56 with 5:41 to play.
Two things ultimately decided Marquette’s fate on this day. The first was turnovers. Whether you want to tip your cap to MSU head coach Vic Schaefer for pressing after every made basket and forcing the Golden Eagles into turnovers or if you want to point at MU’s youth and experience, turnovers by Marquette still decided this game. The Golden Eagles turned the ball over 28 times in this game, and with 77 possessions played, that’s a rate of 36% of the time. You’d like to say that you literally can’t win while doing that, but Marquette damn near did, so maybe you can. Going back to that 61-56 lead midway through the fourth: Marquette turned the ball over on their next two possessions, which was just enough of a crack for the Bulldogs to tie the game back up again. A third turnover shortly thereafter allowed a 9-0 run for the Bulldogs, but even then, a triple from the hot shooting Isabelle Spingola narrowed MSU’s lead right back down to just one, 65-64, with 2:27 to go.
The other thing was a bigger run by Mississippi State in the third quarter. As mentioned, MU had a five point lead three times in this game, and two came in the third period. The second of which came on a Lauren Van Kleunen bucket with 6:04 to go. Seven turnovers by Marquette (see, it’s all connected) allowed the Bulldogs to reel off twelve straight points over a nearly four minute long stretch to take a 52-45 lead. During that 12-0 run, Marquette had a grand total of one field goal attempt. Yes, Marquette immediately bounced back and slashed the lead down to just two points as Spingola buried a triple in transition as the quarter ended, but four minutes with empty possessions, not even a shot going up, may have ultimately been too much for the Golden Eagles to overcome. Yeah, they led midway through the fourth, but had they been dueling with Mississippi State instead of letting them go up seven, who knows what the game looks like late.
We’ve been paying attention to Marquette’s defensive efforts a little bit over on the Twitter machine this season, and that can not be underestimated in this game. You can look at the box score and say “Holy crap, Jessika Carter had 14 points and 21 rebounds for Mississippi State!” What I prefer to do is point out that Marquette held Carter to just 4-for-13 shooting on the night. The 6’5” sophomore came in averaging 19.2 points per game in just 25 minutes per contest, as well as shooting 70% from the field. She had to go 37 minutes here to only shoot 31% and miss her average by five points. That’s an outstanding effort.
As a team, Mississippi State only posted an effective field goal percentage of 38.6% on the night, and according to HerHoopStats.com, that lowered their shooting number on the season to 53.7%. In addition to that, Marquette controlled the glass as much as one could possibly expect against a squad like the Bulldogs. MU held one of the best offensive rebounding squads in the country to just 36% of their own missed shots, and then took advantage of a crummy defensive rebounding team to grab up 37% of their own misses. Time after time after time, on the rare occasion that Marquette missed a shot (53% on the night, 59% eFG%), somehow a Golden Eagle just kept coming up with the ball and extending the possession. It was a team effort on the offensive glass, with two offensive rebounds marking the team high.
Marquette made the best of the shots that they got in this game, but ultimately, Mississippi State took 70 shots in the game, and because of the turnovers, Marquette only attempted 53. That’s your ball game right there. Trade seven of those 28 turnovers for seven shots and three more makes? Well, who knows what happens.
Spingola was your scoring leader for the Golden Eagles on the night, cashing in six of her 10 long range attempts for 18 points. She also added five rebounds and an assist. King had 16 points, seven rebounds, and three assists on the night, while Selena Lott was all over the court with 16 points, four rebounds, four assists, and three steals. They clearly deserve a mountain of credit for what they did in this game, but that trio also combined for 17 of MU’s 28 turnovers.
Altia Anderson, Chloe Marotta, and Lauren Van Kleunen were largely responsible for MU’s efforts against Carter, and deserve their credit, too. They combined for 18 rebounds in the game and added 11 assists, too. Marotta may hold the biggest “what if” line of the game, scoring two points, but grabbing six rebounds and dishing five assists..... while fouling out in 20 minutes. If Marquette gets an extra five, maybe 10 minutes from her......
Up Next: Marquette will take their 4-2 record out west for their first out-of-state road trip of the season over Thanksgiving weekend. They’ll tangle with Saint Mary’s on Friday afternoon on the Gaels’ home court, and then turn around the next day to face Tulsa in the same building. SMC is 2-3 on the year, while the Golden Hurricane holds a record of 3-2. I feel like it’s safe to say that if MU gets the tough minded effort that they got on Monday night minus the turnovers, they should be favored to win both games.