Marquette women’s basketball lost last weekend. It wasn’t fun, and it was generally speaking wildly unpleasant.
But that’s in the past. Let’s talk about the present, or at least the very near future and what’s ahead of Marquette this weekend.
All the loss to St. John’s did was essentially postpone the inevitable. Let’s look at the current Big East standings so you see what I mean.
1 - Marquette, 13-1
2 - DePaul, 10-4
3 - Butler, 9-5
Nothing else matters for the purposes of our discussion, as Marquette has already clinched a top three finish. One win this weekend will give Marquette the #1 seed in the Big East tournament. One win, either Friday or Sunday, will eliminate any chance of a tie with the Bulldogs, leaving only the possibility of a tie with DePaul, and Marquette already finished the season sweep of the Blue Demons. Thus, MU wins any and all tiebreakers with them, and that means clinching the #1 seed and at least a share of the Big East regular season title. Speaking of the title, two wins this weekend will lock up the outright and untied title for Marquette. If that comes together, it would be the second straight regular season title and second straight #1 seed for the Golden Eagles, and that’s pretty great.
We should point out that Sunday will be Senior Day for Marquette, as it will be the final home game of the regular season. That means that MU’s six seniors — Allazia Blockton, Sandra Dahling, Erika Davenport, Natisha Hiedeman, Danielle King, and Amani Wilborn — will all be honored in conjunction with the game. Lemme tell you what, that is going to be a scene the likes of which Marquette athletics has not seen in a long, long time. Those six women have been the foundation for the restart of MU women’s hoops under head coach Carolyn Kieger, going all the way back to when they were the youngest team in Division 1 in their freshman year. They’ve already done so much and accomplished so much, and yet, they’re still so far from being done.
Anyway, the point is, get your tickets now.
Game #15: vs Butler Bulldogs (19-6, 9-5 Big East)
Marquette is 13-7 all time against Butler, but that doesn’t really give you a solid picture of current events. MU has won nine straight against the Bulldogs and 12 of the past 14 meetings, which covers every game since the turn of the century.
Last time around, Marquette handed Butler an 87-58 loss to wrap up both teams’ first pass through the Big East. MU led 14-4 quickly, but were only up 36-31 at halftime, and that was thanks to a 7-2 run to close the half. The Golden Eagles ripped off 12 straight to open the second half, and that was pretty much that.
The loss to Marquette was their third in four games after starting out Big East play 5-0. Since the first game against Marquette, Butler has gone 3-2 with a 21 point road loss to Seton Hall and yet another overtime loss to Providence, this time coming at Hinkle Fieldhouse. That one required Butler to rally from down five in the fourth quarter and get a three from Whitney Jennings with 40 seconds left just to force overtime. The Friars scored the first basket of the extra session and never trailed the rest of the way. All of this is not what you want if you’re the Bulldogs and trying to make a push for the NCAA tournament for the first time in forever. As of February 19th, Butler doesn’t even qualify for “Next Four Out” status on Charlie Creme’s bracketology over at ESPN.com, and heading into a road weekend against the two Big East teams that are in Creme’s bracket doesn’t really tip things in your favor. It’s a big opportunity of course, but when both Marquette and DePaul won the first meetings, it’s not a good sign.
With a 30 point blowout in the first game, there’s not much to try to learn about what Marquette did or did not do well there. All we can really do is look at what Butler is and what they like to do and go from there in terms of previewing them. Their three-headed monster of Whitney Jennings, Kristen Spolyar, and Tori Schickel are the primary focal points for the Bulldogs. All three women average at least 12 points, three rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. That’s pretty good in terms of starting a base for a team somewhere. Those three are joined by Michelle Weaver in the starting lineup, and she provides the passing with a team high 4.5 assists per game. The fifth spot in the lineup was Katherine Strong when these two teams met earlier this year, but Strong hasn’t played since that game. That job now falls to Shae Brey (4.4/5.2/1.0), who has started the last five games for the Bulldogs.
If you asked head coach Kurt Godlevske, I’d imagine he thinks of his team as defensively oriented. They rank 18th in the country in shooting percentage defense according to HerHoopStats.com and 8th in defensive rebounding rate as well. In other words: They make you miss a lot and don’t give you a second try, either. They also rank #13th in turnover rate, which is a nice layer over the shooting and rebounding.
Of course, Marquette is the 11th best shooting team in the country, 12th if you turn to effective field goal percentage instead, 24th in offensive rebounding rate, and 23rd in offensive turnover rate. In other words: All of that stuff that Butler likes to do on defense? They’re fighting an uphill battle against Marquette’s strengths, which is how you get things like 29 point losses.
Game #16: vs Xavier Musketeers (11-14, 2-12 Big East)
Marquette is 12-7 all time against Xavier. The series hasn’t been back and forth evenly, but it’s been one side winning a few at a time all the way down. The Golden Eagles currently have the longest winning streak in the series at six straight.
If you want to know how the first meeting between these two teams went, it’s pretty simple. Marquette started the game off on a 27-4 run. Yes, that was an actual score of the game, and yes, that was still in the first quarter. Your final from Cincinnati: Marquette 90, Xavier 44. It probably wasn’t even that close. That game has particular significance in Marquette basketball history, as that was the game where Allazia Blockton became MU’s first ever player to score 2,000 career points. That’s pretty cool.
As you can probably guess from that 2-12 conference record, it’s been pretty much L’s all the way down for the Musketeers since they last saw Marquette. They went to overtime against DePaul two days later and then beat Seton Hall in the next game after that. Their next two? 70-41 and 63-38, both losses. Not good! Things tightened up back at home last weekend, falling 63-55 to Providence and forcing Creighton into hitting a shot with 30 seconds left to beat them. Xavier went 3-15 in league play last year, so they’ve got four swings of the axe to try to find two wins and better last year’s mark. Heading to Milwaukee and Chicago won’t make that easy, but hey, they did almost knock off DePaul in Cincinnati, so anything’s possible, I suppose.
Xavier isn’t a painfully slow team, but they’re definitely on the slower side of the spectrum, with a HerHoopStats possessions per 40 minutes rank of #245 in the country. That’s how you end up with things like “A’riana Gray leads the team in scoring at 13.4 per game, and Na’Teshia Owens is the only other double digit scorer at 11.7 per outing.” While they’re the overall leaders, it was Aaliyah Dunham that gave Marquette fits in the first meeting. She knocked down four of her eight long range attempts on her way to a team high 16 points. Dunham was the only XU player in double digits, which isn’t surprising given that they finished with 44 as a team. Dunham is prone to letting it fly with nearly four attempts per game, but she’s shooting under 32% from outside. MU did hold Lauren Wasylson to 1-for-5 shooting in the first meeting, and considering that she’s usually a 38% shooter and letting rip more than five times a game, that’s a great job on defense by the Golden Eagles. They’ll need to repeat that, as Wasylson is the kind of player who can get hot in a hurry.