I don’t think anyone has to be or in fact actually is particularly happy with the win/loss results of the weekend. Marquette women’s basketball suffered their first loss in Big East play on Friday, leaving Connecticut as the last undefeated squad in league play. It wasn’t a good game, as Marquette looked wildly out of sorts for much of the game and needed a ferocious rally early in the fourth quarter to make the final score look as close as it was.
But it was Marquette’s first game since hosting Xavier since December 22nd. Between a break for Christmas, a COVID halt to team activity that was announced on New Year’s Day, and an already planned open spot in the schedule, the Golden Eagles went over three weeks without a game. Because of the holidays and the positive COVID test in there, the team barely even practiced during those three weeks. I know it’s a crazy concept, but basketball teams and sports teams in general are better when they have lots of regular time together to become a coherent unit. That wasn’t the case for Marquette since Christmas, and it showed on Friday against the Pirates.
Sunday against St. John’s was a different story. Marquette looked like Marquette again. Great defense, fluid offense, a shining performance from all-Big East performer Selena Lott, etc. Did they just need one game to shake the rust off? Was there a bonus effect for the Golden Eagles from having already played the Johnnies once already this season? Maybe a bit of both?
We’ll have to wait and see.
That maxim goes for Marquette’s roster as well. Head coach Megan Duffy took just eight players with her to the New York City area for MU’s weekend trip. That meant all four freshmen stayed in Milwaukee, as did sophomore Nirel Lougbo. Only Liza Karlen has played more than 40 minutes from that group of five this season, and Lougbo hasn’t played at all. In short, no, Marquette wasn’t really missing anything from their regular rotation by that decision from Duffy.
But.... it raises questions about why Duffy did that when Marquette was 13 days past the announced COVID pause on Thursday when they left for the east coast. I think we can all go ahead and fill in the blanks here. If Karlen was the only one of the five truly contributing, then we have to wonder how much we’ll see of this group of five for the rest of the season. This goes double for Lougbo, who was a mostly reliable presence in the backcourt as a freshman but hasn’t dressed for a game yet this year. There’s no word out of the McGuire Center as to what her particular situation is for the year, but that’s just standard operating procedure for this athletic department.
Big East Game #6: vs Georgetown Hoyas (1-3, 1-3 Big East)
Marquette is 20-4 all time against Georgetown. The Golden Eagles have won six straight against the Hoyas and nine of the last 10.
Let’s just be honest about it, and I’m not talking about the results here: Georgetown’s 2020-21 season has sucked. According to the schedule that the Hoyas actually have published online right now, they have had five non-conference games cancelled and six league games postponed. We’re not even counting games that Georgetown might have scheduled but never announced because they got cancelled before the announcement or any games that GU might have just removed from the schedule instead of leaving the canceled/postponed notice up. That’s how you get to mid-January with only four games played. They didn’t even play two scheduled games in a row until this past week when they visited Butler and hosted DePaul on the 13th and the 16th respectively.
I’m not even 100% sure we can make any serious statements about Georgetown’s actual basketball activity. They have played four games, but it’s only against two teams. The Hoyas have finished up their scheduled season series against DePaul and Butler already to get to four total games played. They lost by 18 points on the road and by 24 at home to the Blue Demons, but that doesn’t tell us all that much because DePaul was ranked in both games and quite honestly, most people would have said “DePaul by double digits” for both games.
The Butler results are a little different. The Hoyas got their only win of the season back on New Year’s Eve against the Bulldogs, getting the 56-45 home victory in a 61 possession game. Both teams shot under 40%. This does tell us a bit more about the Hoyas, as Butler is 1-8 on the year right now. You’ve done the math already, of course, and you’ve figured out that Butler’s lone win came against Georgetown. Last Wednesday at Hinkle, the Hoyas fell behind 13-0 out of the gate and never had a chance in their 58-40 loss to Butler. Yet again, neither team shot over 40%, and Georgetown only shot 23% from the field, including a truly and inexplicably awful 3-for-28 from long range.
With all of this in mind, I don’t know what we can and can’t say about Georgetown from a statistical perspective. Are they actually the #315 team in field goal percentage in the country like HerHoopStats.com says they are, or are their numbers artificially deflated because half their minutes played this season came against a ranked opponent that everyone knew was better than Georgetown by a pretty steep margin? Do they actually like to shoot three-pointers as much as they have this season, or have they been kind of tricked into doing something they’re bad at because they’ve spent so much time trailing by notable margins?
Here’s two things Marquette has to watch out for: Rebounding and turnovers. Georgetown is an excellent offensive rebounding team, ranking #24 in the country in rate. Yes, they miss a lot of shots, but they get a second chance on them nearly 40% of the time. Taylor Baur, Graceann Bennett, and Jillian Archer all have double-digit offensive rebounding rates, so the Golden Eagles are going to need to put bodies on people when shots go in the air. This isn’t news, of course, as MU is a good defensive rebounding team, but it needs to be emphasized here. Georgetown is also pretty good at coming up with steals, with HHS ranking them #22 in the country in steal rate. That’s a problem for Marquette, who has struggled with turnovers this season, especially lately. In MU’s last five games, the turnover rate has been over 20%, which is right about where their season average sits right now. Marquette isn’t a great offensive team, largely because they don’t have the shooters from outside to truly make things hum. As such, they can’t really afford to be wasting too many possessions, and the Hoyas are certainly willing to help the Golden Eagles waste them.