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Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: vs St. John’s & vs Seton Hall

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The Golden Eagles return home for the first Big East games at the McGuire Center this season.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at St. John Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

So, yeah, Marquette women’s basketball is 1-2 so far in Big East play. It’s not great!

It’s also not the worst thing in the world.

The Golden Eagles were dealt a deck of three straight road games to start their league schedule. That’s not super, of course, but it is what it is. Good news: Nine of the next 15 games are at home!

It also doesn’t help that Marquette had to visit the Big East’s top two RPI teams to start league play. DePaul currently sits in the top 10 in the NCAA’s metric, and Creighton is no slouch at #17. By that measure, that’s two of MU’s three toughest opponents this season, and when you factor in those as road games, they were definitely Marquette’s two hardest games this season. And they lost both. Oh well.

The important thing is that they salvaged a game against a beatable Providence team last weekend to have one Big East win in their pocket heading into Friday night. This weekend won’t exactly be a picnic, either. There’s six teams in the Big East in the RPI top 100. Marquette is one, and the Golden Eagles have already played two more. St. John’s and Seton Hall are in there as well, and they currently rank higher than any team that Marquette has beaten this season.

Let’s just say it plainly and not dance around it: If Marquette thinks of themselves as an NCAA tournament team, then games like these two at the McGuire Center are two that that they have to win. Quality opponents with the advantage of playing them at home is always the path of least resistance to a good postseason profile. Heck, even if MU thinks they’re a WNIT team, or even if they just want to prove that they’re not the ninth place team as picked in the preseason coaches’ poll, these are games that they need to win.

No matter what happens, the season is far from over, of course. But we may just get a better idea of what to expect from the Golden Eagles the rest of the way by the time the final horn sounds on Sunday afternoon.

Big East Game #4: vs St. John’s Red Storm (10-5, 3-1 Big East)

Date: Friday, January 10, 2020
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, WI
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on the Big East’s YouTube Channel
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 13-10 all time against St. John’s. The teams split the season series last year, but the Golden Eagles came out ahead in the Big East quarterfinals, giving them wins in four of the last five contests.

Last Sunday’s loss to Villanova in overtime at Carnesecca Arena ruined a bit of a hot streak for the Red Storm. Before that, they were 3-0 in Big East play, winners of their last four as well as six of their last seven. The only loss in that run was at then-#8 Florida State, and even then, it was only by four points, 74-70. Granted, that’s a weeeeee bit misleading, as a Tiana England layup for the Johnnies with three seconds left gave us the final margin, but still: Down just five with 2:09 to go after trailing by 10 to a top 10 team in their barn 90 seconds earlier and by as many as 15 in the third quarter is a pretty good showing.

The loss to the Wildcats is a bit of a heartbreaker. SJU had to rally from down four with a minute left, and they did, with England tying the game with 27 seconds to go. After that, Leilani Correa came up with a steal almost right away, but England’s layup attempt out of a timeout missed as did Qadashah Hoppie’s putback attempt at the buzzer. Villanova scored first in the extra session, and the Red Storm never led.

That’s the only thing separating St. John’s from a half-game lead in the Big East standings right now. Instead, they’re 3-1, a half-game behind DePaul, the opponent they’ll see on Sunday. It feels like this might be a situation where they’re going to head to the Lake Michigan area determined to make their presence in the league standings felt, and that starts with Marquette on Friday night.

It appears that this game will be a clash of strengths. St. John’s ranks #36 in the country in HerHoopStats.com’s Offensive Rating, and they’ll be facing off against Marquette’s #41 defense. Don’t get me wrong, both SJU and Marquette are quality clubs on the respective other ends of the court, but they’re each better in this one on the end where St. John’s has the ball. Here’s the good news for Marquette, wrapped up in the bad news: St. John’s is a superb three-point shooting team, connecting on 36.5% of their attempts, which ranks #26 in the country. However, head coach Joe Tartamella doesn’t appear to be aware of this fact. The Red Storm rank #158 in the country — essentially right down the middle of the road — in terms of what percentage of their shots come from behind the arc. Alissa Alston (47%) and Qadashah Hoppie (43%) are raining fire from behind the line, and Emma Nolan (38%) is no slouch, either. Hoppie has a green light to shoot, letting go more than six times per game on average, but no one else averages more than Nolan’s 2.5 long range attempts per game. Correa is a respectable enough shooter (34%) to give Tartamella a pack of shooters that should scare the living hell out of any opposing defense, but just 33% of the team’s total field goals are long range attempts. Marquette isn’t particularly great at driving offenses off the arc, so we’ll see if what happens on Friday night.

Just in the interest of equal fairness: I could say the exact same thing about Megan Duffy and Marquette. 36% shooting percentage behind the arc, but just #229 in terms of the percentage of the offense. Selena Lott and Isabelle Spingola are superb shooters, and yes, MU’s amazing offensive rebounding is clouding the stats a little bit thanks to putbacks. However, it seems that the Golden Eagles, just like the Red Storm, would benefit from a few more threes getting fired up.

The best thing St. John’s has going for them is a variety of scorers. Hoppie leads the team with 16.8 per game so far this season, but all told four women average at least 10 per game. England is the key to the entire endeavor, as she both scores in double digits and leads the team in assists. She ranks #156 in the country in assist rate, but she’s also turning it over a lot. A 27.5% assist rate while you’re on the floor is pretty sparkly, but that’s countered with 22.7% of possessions ending with a turnover, too. If Marquette can take advantage of that hole in England’s game, that should lead to good things, but it is an “if.” MU does not excel at forcing turnovers, but they do have a variety of roughly six-foot tall defenders to throw at the 5’7” England.

Big East Game #5: vs Seton Hall Pirates (10-5, 3-1 Big East)

Date: Sunday, January 12, 2020
Time: 2pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, WI
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on the Big East’s YouTube Channel
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 15-7 all time against Seton Hall. After winning at Walsh Gym last season, the Golden Eagles have now taken six straight in the series and seven of the last eight. FUN FACT: Marquette has never lost to Seton Hall at home.

As is the case with St. John’s, Villanova is playing spoiler to Seton Hall’s otherwise perfect record in conference play. Thanks to the travel partner system, the Wildcats knocked off the Pirates last Friday before SHU snagged a 79-60 home win over Georgetown to send them off to DePaul this Friday before coming to Milwaukee. The loss to Villanova snapped a four game winning streak for Seton Hall, and they had a closer-than-it-looks 92-78 loss to Connecticut right before that.

As was the case when league play started, Desiree Elmore is leading the Pirates in scoring at 14.9 points per game. As was the case then, it’s a little surprising since SHU’s Shadeen Samuels was the obvious pick as preseason Player of the Year in the league. Samuels missed four non-conference games, though, so that does help explain why Elmore’s numbers are way up on average. Still, Samuels isn’t quite doing what she was doing a year ago when she was leading the entire conference in scoring. It’s probably hard to find a tandem in this league as dangerous as Elmore and Samuels, as they go 1-2 in scoring, 2-1 in rebounding with both over seven per game, and 3-2 in assists per game. Lauren Park-Lane, a 5’6” freshman from Delaware, has the team lead in that last department.

In terms of style of play, much like both Marquette and Saint John’s, Seton Hall is excelling on both sides of the floor. They rank in the top 70 in both offense and defense according to the way HerHoopStats.com measures things. However, Seton Hall’s better on the defensive end, ranking #33 in the country there. More importantly to Marquette, they play at something of a frenetic pace thanks to ranking #17 in the country in steal rate and #12 in pure steals per game. This is a major issue here, as Marquette is one of the more fumble fingered teams in the country, turning it over on over 21% of their possessions. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you have to rely on freshmen for significant minutes, but it’s something that the Golden Eagles will have to be worried about. SHU has a trio of players with a steal rate north of 3%, led by Alexis Lewis, who ranks #118 in the country. Ball security and transition defense are going to be the primary keys to the game for Marquette.