The pathway has maybe not been the most fun, but it’s hard to argue with the results so far for Megan Duffy and Marquette women’s basketball.
They’re 7-2 on the year and 2-0 in Big East action after going over to the east side of Milwaukee for a “road” game against UW-Milwaukee. For the time being, Marquette’s only two losses on the year are to teams ranked in the Associated Press top 25 poll, as Georgia is #21 and Colorado is #25. Those two squads have a combined record of 17-1 right now, with only the Bulldogs’ loss to the Georgia Tech team that just beat UConn as a blemish between the two.
Those are the only two teams to beat Marquette this season. Everyone else has walked away in defeat. Now, sure, you could argue this isn’t terribly surprising as HerHoopStats.com had the Golden Eagles favored in every game this season so far except the Georgia game, and four of them were by a better than 90% margin. But Marquette has not looked particularly good this season, and they’ve still beaten everyone except the teams currently in the top 25.
The Golden Eagles aren’t shooting the ball very well, especially from long range. They’re turning the ball over way too much, more than one-fifth of the time through nine games. These are legitimate problems, and the turnovers are compounding the shooting problem by shrinking the number of times down the court that the Golden Eagles get a shot off.
But they’re winning.
That’s what’s important. The wins are stacking up. It’s better to struggle to win than struggle to lose. You build up the mental angle of “we’re going to figure this out because that’s what we do.” Eventually, problems get fixed, and things get easier, or at least that’s what you hope happens.
Game #10: vs North Dakota Fighting Hawks (4-4)
Marquette leads the all-time series 1-0. The only meeting came last year in Marquette’s season opener, and the Golden Eagles won 90-82 in Grand Forks.
After being picked to finish ninth in the Summit League, North Dakota is off to a pretty good start to the season. Well, more accurately, they’ve recovered from a bad start to the season to even out their record at 4-4. They lost their first three games of the year, all in very not good ways. 15 points at Weber State, 20 points at UTEP, and 21 points at home to Montana. They downed Montana State by four at home to get in the win column for the first time this season before suffering a five point loss to Bucknell in an event hosted by Vermont.
After that, they beat Brown fairly convincingly, 65-46, and then went over to Siena and beat the Saints by eight in their building. UND picked up their third straight win last Saturday when they smashed Division 3 Minnesota-Morris by 42. Sure, D3, but a win’s a win, and they have won three straight and four of five. That’s not nothing.
Kacie Borowicz has only played in the last five games for the Hawks, so maybe it’s not a surprise that things have turned around lately. The 5’7” junior guard is leading the team in scoring at 19.2 per game since getting into the lineup as well as roaring past the field to 6.2 assists per game. She’s also shooting just over two three-pointers a game and she’s connecting at a 55% clip, although that’s still a little small sample size-y. Solving for both her scoring and playmaking is going to make a big difference for the Golden Eagles.
Olivia Lane has gotten into the lineup for the last four games for UND, and she’s been a big boost as well. The 6’2” junior joins Borowicz in the double digit club at 11.0 points per game, and she’s leapt out to the team lead in rebounds at 6.8 per game. Between Lane and Borowicz, it can’t be a surprise that North Dakota is catching fire right now, and it’ll be an interesting challenge for the MU coaching staff to try to figure out what tendencies are permanent and which are new thanks to the lineup changes.
Marquette’s biggest advantages in this game are going to be, as they usually will be this season, their rebounding and their willingness to move the ball. Her Hoop Stats has Marquette in the top 20 in rebounding rate on both ends of the court as well as #25 in the country in assist rate. It’s going to be hard for most teams in the country to match that kind of excellence in all three facets, and as expected, North Dakota does not. They are a pedestrian offensive rebounding team (#187), a not good passing team (#266), and an objectively bad defensive rebounding team (#320). If Marquette struggles with their shot in this game, it’s entirely possible that their offensive efficiency won’t suffer due to UND’s inability to limit teams to one shot.