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#8 Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: at St. John’s & at Seton Hall

The Golden Eagles head east with an opportunity to clinch the regular season title. Yes, with four games left after this weekend.

Barclays Center Classic Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

And now, a quick review of the Big East women’s basketball conference standings.

1st - Marquette, 12-0
T-2nd - Butler, 8-4
T-2nd - DePaul, 8-4
T-4th - Three teams at 6-7

Okay, that’s enough. That’s the important parts for this, a noted Marquette blog.

With an 18 game schedule, it’s obvious that Marquette has six games left to play this season. As such, Marquette has already clinched a top three spot in the Big East tournament. None of the teams tied for fourth or lower in the standings can pass the Golden Eagles at this point.

I want to now direct your attention forward in time so to speak. In order to claim the 2018-19 as a championship season, Marquette doesn’t need to have a better record than everyone else in the league. They merely need to be able to tie for first place in order to say “REGULAR SEASON CHAMPS!”

So..... if Marquette goes out to the New York City area this weekend and comes back with two wins, they will only have four games left and can only end up with, at worst, four losses. No matter what happens with DePaul or Butler this weekend, they can’t finish with fewer than four losses. They’re already there.

So.

Marquette can clinch a share of the regular season title this weekend. If DePaul or Butler were to lose either of their games this weekend along with Marquette going 2-0, the Golden Eagles will clinch the outright title and the #1 seed in the Big East tournament.

With four games left in the regular season. No, seriously. That’s how great Marquette has been in league play to this point of the year.

Let’s address a little bit of actual on-court basketball things. Erika Davenport left Marquette’s game on Sunday with an injury and did not return. She didn’t even end up on the bench, spending the remainder of the contest in the locker room. That’s of some concern, but it’s also important to remember that MU was up 31 when this happened. She didn’t need to come back on any level. To be clear: I’m not being critical of Carolyn Kieger and her staff for having Davenport out there while up 31 in the third quarter. Marquette had eight players get at least 10 minutes of burn in that game, and Davenport finished last amongst all of them with just 13 minutes played. She didn’t have a foul problem, she just wasn’t playing due to matchups and coach’s decision making. Therefore, having Davenport out there was, to a certain extent, making sure the minutes were spread around.

Davenport’s status for this weekend is up in the air as a result of the injury, but this wouldn’t be the first time that Carolyn Kieger has elected to remove a slightly hurt player from a game and ultimately not have that player miss a game. Natisha Hiedeman would probably be listed as “probable” for this weekend, but she had her own injury scare early in the fourth quarter. She required attention from the trainer so she had to be subbed out of the game, but she did eventually return to the game. It seems like there’s no reason to worry about her, especially since she was out of sorts on Friday after taking a knock to the head, but was totally fine on Sunday.

Still, it’s something to keep an eye on, particularly as Marquette is aiming themselves at a top four seed in the NCAA tournament, hosting first and second round games in the tourney, and pushing towards the best season in program history. It would be not helpful to say the least if the Golden Eagles start getting hampered by minor injuries. They already lost five-plus games of Allazia Blockton to an ankle injury, and while that didn’t affect them all that much, it’s probably best to not try to poke that bear any more.

Big East Game #13: at St. John’s Red Storm (12-12, 5-8 Big East)

Date: Friday, February 15, 2019
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 12-9 all time against St. John’s. Marquette has now won three straight against the Red Storm in what has been a back and forth series that started in 2005. Last year’s win at Carnesecca Arena was the first for Marquette since 2014.

St. John’s comes in on a three game winning streak, giving them a record of 4-2 since the first meeting between these two teams. They hammered Xavier by 29 at home, then went out on the worst road trip in the Big East last weekend to come away with two narrow wins: 51-45 at Creighton and 60-57 at Providence less than 48 hours later. To a certain extent, St. John’s had to hold on against the Bluejays, as CU had trimmed a 10 point lead down to just five with 3:27 to go. The Providence game was even tighter, with Providence down just one repeatedly early in the fourth quarter. But the game was a little wider than the final margin with Alisha Kebbe hitting two free throws to go up seven with six seconds left.

As was the case earlier this season, St. John’s is walking a tightrope with their rotation, and as you can see from their win-loss record, they’re not doing it very well. The Red Storm have just 10 players on their roster, and only nine are active thanks to the NCAA’s transfer rules. Six women play at least 20 minutes a night, one more plays at least 15, and the final two are bit players at most. It’s a tiny rotation that relies heavily on their starting five. Unsurprisingly, St. John’s is one of the 20 slowest teams in the country in terms of possessions per 40 minutes according to HerHoopStats.com. Limiting possessions and avoiding fatigue by way of lack of speed is a smart way to play this angle, and while I hate slow basketball, I have to respect Joe Tartamella’s decision here.

With that said, Marquette was able to rev up the RPMs on St. John’s in the meeting in Milwaukee earlier this season. That one was played at 76 possessions, more than 10 possessions faster than Tartamella would prefer. Part of the issue there was the fact that the two teams combined for 34 turnovers in the game. Turnovers = didn’t get a shot off = possession ended sooner than expected = more possessions. Marquette actually got outshot in the game ever so slightly, but the Golden Eagles had a big advantage in offensive rebounding rate, led by Erika Davenport grabbing five and Danielle King getting to three. That game was much closer than the 10 point final margin showed as St. John’s pushed their way within four points with less than three minutes left after trailing by 15. Even with the two disparate styles, for whatever reason, St. John’s can give Marquette fits, and that will be something to watch closely here.

All five of St. John’s starters are averaging 10 points a game if you round up. Tiana England and Curteeona Brelove are at 9.7 per contest, and Qadashah Hoppie leads the way at just 11.7 per outing. That’s an incredibly tight spectrum of scoring, so all five women are threats. Four of the five scored at least 13 points against Marquette last time out, with Brelove leading the team with 22. Like I said: everyone’s a threat. Brelove and Kayla Charles will be the big threats on the offensive glass, and you can toss Kadaja Bailey into the mix on the defensive side of the court, too.

Big East Game #14: at Seton Hall Pirates (14-10, 6-7 Big East)

Date: Sunday, February 17, 2019
Time: 11am Central
Location: Walsh Gym, South Orange, NJ
Television: CBS Sports Network
Streaming: CBS Sports.com, if your cable provider is on board with it
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 14-7 all time against Seton Hall. The Golden Eagles have won five straight against the Pirates and six of the last seven as well.

The Pirates come in off of two straight losses and L’s in three of their last four games. That puts them at 3-4 since they last played Marquette, and they will host DePaul on Friday before Marquette comes in on Sunday afternoon. You’d think that they wouldn’t be favored against the Blue Demons, but Seton Hall did win in Chicago, 84-73, as one of their three wins since their visit to Milwaukee.

In the preview for the first meeting, I talked about how head coach Tony Bozzella deploys point guard Kaela Hilaire. As we sit here today, she has the #31 assist rate in the country. Yet, she’s playing less than 20 minutes per game overall and even less in Big East play. She stands just 5’3”, so I understand the need to find a good matchup for her, but she’s also really really great and finding the open teammate. Even pairing off against Marquette and 5’5” Danielle King didn’t help boost her PT, as Hilaire only played 21 minutes in the first meeting. Even then, she still tied with King for the game high in assists in six, and it took King six more minutes to get hers.

There’s not much else to take away from Marquette’s previous game against Seton Hall. The Golden Eagles ripped off a 14-0 run and led by 20 before the first quarter ended. The Pirates never got any closer once the second quarter started, and MU won by 36. Yep. Can they repeat that on the road? Maybe! Marquette had made a habit of ripping through teams up and down the schedule for the most part, so there’s definitely a solid chance of it happening.

For Marquette to win in general, they have to lock up Shadeen Samuels. She’s averaging 20.6 points per game in league play and shoots 52% from the field. She’s not much of an outside threat, at least in willingness to let it fly. Nicole Jimenez is the one that Marquette has to corral, as she attempts nine triples a game. MU did figure out how to shut her down the first time around, as she went 1-for-9, but it should be noted that she was 0-for-1 in the first quarter and 1-for-8 after the game was essentially decided. It’s up to you to figure out what all of that means.