Marquette Golden Eagles women’s basketball has won five straight Big East games. Since starting 0-2 with the two hardest road games in the league this season, the Golden Eagles have gone 8-1, with the only loss coming in a close game on the road.
They are, currently, alone in second place in the Big East. That’s two games behind 10-1 DePaul after the Blue Demons suffered their first conference loss of the season last Friday night, and a half-game in front of third place Butler. With Marquette holding three losses with seven games to play and Providence and Georgetown currently sitting on 10 losses already, Marquette will clinch a top eight finish in the Big East with a win in either one of their games this weekend.
Obviously, this does not sound terribly impressive.
However, we have to remind you that the Big East coaches themselves thought that Marquette was going to finish ninth by way of the preseason poll.
The Golden Eagles and first year head coach Megan Duffy are 40 minutes away from jamming that entire concept right back in everyone’s faces.
Not bad, huh?
A win in both games this weekend would guarantee a winning season in league play for Marquette this season, as it would propel them to 10 wins. It would also be a major boost to Marquette’s NCAA tournament hopes. As of this past Tuesday morning, ESPN’s Charlie Creme has the Golden Eagles as a #9 seed in the tournament, which I will definitely sign up for right now. However, a #9 seed isn’t that far from the #11 lines, which is where Creme’s last four teams in currently reside. Russ Steinberg over at High Post Hoops has MU as a #10 seed in the field, although he has one of his final four in the field down as a #12.
In any case, we’re talking about potentially razor thin margins for Marquette. Wins = definitely good. Losses = questionable at best. The good news is that MU is on the road this weekend, so any losses that happen would be road losses and those are a little easier to absorb. It also helps that both of Marquette’s opponents this weekend are in the RPI top 80 as of Thursday morning. Road losses to top 100 teams aren’t that big of a deal, and St. John’s is actually sitting at #49.
These are big games for the Golden Eagles, to be sure. If they can run their winning streak to seven straight, they will be rapidly approaching lock status for the program’s fourth straight NCAA tournament. Four straight tourneys has only happened one time before in program history, and it took two of the program’s all-time greats playing together for the same coach for four years to make it happen.
That’s, uh, not the situation here for Megan Duffy and her team this year. They’re not all the way there yet, but they’re close, and every game is a big step closer to that goal.
Big East Game #12: at Seton Hall Pirates (14-8, 7-4 Big East)
Date: Friday, February 7, 2020
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Walsh Gym, South Orange, NJ
Television: FS2, with Matt Schumacker and Kim Adams on the call
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette is 16-7 all time against Seton Hall. After winning at the McGuire Center earlier this year, the Golden Eagles have now taken seven straight in the series and eight of the last nine.
Since the first meeting this season between these two squads, Seton Hall has gone 4-1. They took two weekend sweeps, first at home against Providence and Creighton and then on the road against Villanova and Georgetown last weekend. In the middle of those two sets of wins, Seton Hall lost at home to travel partner St. John’s, and they lost badly, 82-66. All told, Seton Hall is 7-4 this season at Walsh Gym.
It was a 21 point margin, 81-60, last time out at the McGuire Center for Marquette against the Pirates, but that margin was firmly set in the second half. At the midway point of the game, Marquette led by just four, 38-34, and that was only because they scored the final four points of the first half. I would expect the return bout in South Orange to go more like the first half than the second, where MU outscored the Pirates 43-26.
Overall in that game, Marquette had a noticeable shooting advantage, compiling an effective field goal percentage of 48.3% against just 34.7% for Seton Hall. The Pirates shot under 29% from the field overall in each of the final three quarters of the game, and it’s unlikely that they do that again in their own barn. HerHoopStats.com has Seton Hall as the #73 two-point shooting team in the country and a top 100 eFG% team, and while Marquette has been a good defensive team this season, it’s a lot to expect the Golden Eagles to lock up the Pirates a second time.
Marquette’s other big advantage against the Pirates was in the rebounding department. 40% of MU’s misses in that game ended up back in the hands of a Golden Eagle, with Chloe Marotta and Camryn Taylor each nabbing three offensive boards to lead the way. Seton Hall has been holding teams to just 28% on average (that’s a top 60 rate per HHS), so you can see how much MU was able to control that aspect of the game. When you’re already outshooting a team and then you’re grabbing that many of your misses, things tend to go your way in a hurry. On the other end of the floor, Marquette was able to limit the Pirates to just 26% of their misses. SHU isn’t particularly a strong offensive rebounding team anyway, but that’s worse than their season average.
I think it’s safe to say that Marquette did a good enough job defending Shadeen Samuels and Desiree Elmore in the first meeting, but that compliment does not extend to Barbara Johnson. The 5’8” Canadian had 20 points on 8-for-17 shooting and grabbed six rebounds, too. Now, it’s not the worst thing in the world when an opponent’s third option is having success when the top two aren’t, but if Seton Hall head coach Tony Bozzella opts to take advantage of Johnson having success against MU’s defenders, then that could end up being an issue for the Golden Eagles.
Big East Game #13: at St. John’s Red Storm (14-8, 7-4 Big East)
Date: Sunday, February 9, 2020
Time: 1pm Central
Location: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on the Big East’s YouTube Channel
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette is 14-10 all time against St. John’s. The Golden Eagles won earlier this season as well as in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament last year to give them wins in five of the last six meetings.
The Red Storm have an extra game in the works since Marquette last saw them. That’s because SJU came to Milwaukee on Friday before going to Chicago to play DePaul on Sunday. The game against the Blue Demons was a five point loss, but they followed that up with three straight wins. Last weekend, the Johnnies went to Villanova and Georgetown, and snagged a win over the Hoyas after blowing a five point lead with 3:22 to go at The Finn and falling in overtime to the Wildcats.
The story of MU’s first game this season against St. John’s is a simple one: The Red Storm was winning as they banged in three-pointer after three-pointer after three-pointer through the first three quarters. They then did not shoot any threes for a long stretch, Marquette kept hitting shots as both teams had done all game long, and boom, MU wins.
Three-point shooting has been something that we’ve talked about a lot in regards to St. John’s this season, both in our conference play preview in December as well as the preview for the first meeting. The Johnnies are a fantastic three-point shooting team, ranking #25 in the country in shooting percentage according to HerHoopStats.com. That’s really great! What’s not great is how head coach Joe Tartamella runs his offense. The Red Storm are right about middle of the country in terms of how often they let it fly from downtown, and since they’re one of the most accurate shooting teams in the country, that’s just flat out bonkers. They’ve risen up a little bit in HHS’ rankings since early January, but St. John’s is still only averaging 19 long range attempts per game out of 60 overall shots per game. Marquette was able to take threes away from the Red Storm eventually in the first meeting between the two teams, either by scheme or because Tartamella had some kind of mental break that convinced him that the team that was 9-for-11 on threes through three quarters should stop shooting. If the Golden Eagles can duplicate the three-point defense they had for the final quarter of that first game for 40 minutes, they should probably come out ahead.
Marquette also defended Tiana England nearly perfectly in the first meeting as far as I’m concerned. She’s already a little turnover prone, averaging three per game this season and holding onto a rate north of 23%. The Golden Eagles provoked her into eight turnovers at the McGuire Center — the team only had 17 total — which is really fantastic news given how well the Johnnies were shooting the ball. It’s unlikely that they’ll be able to do that again to her, so MU will have to figure out another way to lock things up on defense.