If I told you that Marquette women’s basketball shot just 40% from the field and made just one three-pointer on Wednesday afternoon, what would you guess the result of the game against Cincinnati was?
Keeping that in mind, what if I also told you Marquette also committed 24 turnovers in a 74 possession game, meaning nearly a third of their possessions ended without so much as a shot and with the Bearcats going the other way with the ball?
With those two things in your head, what if I also told you that Karissa McLaughlin, one half of Marquette’s starting backcourt and the only legitimate three-point threat on the team so far this season went out in the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not return?
Sounds like a rough afternoon at the Al McGuire Center all around for Marquette, huh? Doesn’t sound like a win, does it?
Well, the title at the top of the page spoiled it for you, I suppose. Behind a game high 18 point performance from Jordan King, Marquette ended up with a 60-49 victory over Cincinnati to wrap up non-conference action for the season. The Golden Eagles head into Christmas and nothing but Big East games the rest of the way with a record of 9-3.
To be clear, it wasn’t all bad for Marquette. They got out to a great start in this one, and as it turns out, that really ended up helping in a big way. After the two teams traded buckets to open the game, the Golden Eagles scored the next seven to have a 10-2 lead at the media timeout in the middle of the first quarter. Just over five minutes in, and the Golden Eagles had already acquired what would turn out to be one-sixth of their points in the game. Two free throws from UC’s Akira Levy on a shot and foul at the buzzer made it 13-8 after 10 minutes, but that’s as close as the Bearcats could get it between there and halftime. They pulled it back to five a couple of times in the second as MU did the visitors some favors with eight of their 12 first half turnovers coming in the period. But a bucket by Liza Karlen with just seconds to go answered a Levy jumper in the paint, and Marquette was up eight at intermission.
The third quarter made it look like Marquette was fixing to break the game wide open, and considering that McLaughlin went out with 7:22 left in the second after twisting her leg in a spin move in transition, that was pretty good work to adjust on the fly by the Golden Eagles. After Arame Niang broke the ice on the second half, Marquette ripped off the next 10 points of the game to jump out to a 34-18 lead. In a fun coincidence, the run was a palindrome, with Liza Karlen and Jordan King scoring on either side of a transition bucket by Lauren Van Kleunen.
The run actually turned into 13-2 after an and-1 bucket by Antwainette Walker, and if you really wanted to, you could count baskets by Walker and King to make it 17-4 in favor of the Golden Eagles. That’s a more than six minute stretch of the quarter where the Golden Eagles just blew the Bearcats right off the floor.....
..... and as it turns out, they really needed that 19 point margin that they had at 41-22 with 2:18 to go.
Cincinnati scored the final six points of the quarter, including a four-point play by Akira as she was fouled at the horn for the second time in the game. Up 13 as the fourth quarter started, Marquette got baskets by King and Van Kleunen to push the lead back to 17, 45-28, with nine minutes to go. Same for two free throws by Karlen with 8:27 to play. Five straight for UC made it a 12 point game.
The two teams started trading buckets as Marquette couldn’t regain their sizeable advantage. Jillian Hayes scored four straight by herself as the Bearcats started applying pressure all over the court to the Golden Eagles and MU suddenly turned into The Gang That Couldn’t Pass Straight. Malea Williams cashed in another transition opportunity, and suddenly it was an eight point game, 53-45, with exactly three minutes to play.
You can see why MU head coach Megan Duffy called timeout.
That was when Cincinnati started getting a little foul-y with their pressure, and two free throw splits by both King and Rose Nkumu helped Marquette get the lead back to double digits, 55-45, with 2:19 to go. Another MU turnover let Williams score in transition again to make it an eight point game with less than two minutes to go..... but that’s as close as it got.
I don’t know what exactly happened, but Cincinnati suddenly got extremely patient as time flooded away from them. I get that the pressure was working and MU was turning the ball over like Santa handing out presents on Christmas Eve..... but they just let MU burn nearly the entire shot clock away before Jordan King ended up missing a shot with 1:14 to play..... and then it took them another nine seconds before fouling King after Chloe Marotta came up with the offensive rebound.
Between Williams’ bucket to make it 55-47 and King splitting some free throws to make it a nine point margin, 46 seconds disappeared from the clock. As a Marquette fan, I am a huge fan of Cincinnati just completely brainlocking, but it was dumbfounding to watch. This wasn’t “ah, look, Marquette is expertly snapping passes around and Cincinnati can’t catch up to the person with the ball to foul them.” This was “UC is going to play defense for an entire shot clock even though they need the time more than anything.”
Hayes got a shot under the rim blocked by Marotta.... after Cincinnati took 17 seconds to get a shot at all, King came up with the ball, MU called timeout to advance the ball, the Bearcats foulded king after the inbound.
Two free throws up and in, 11 point game, 31 seconds to go.
That’s your ball game right there.
King had the aforementioned best scoring day for the Golden Eagles on 6-for-13 shooting, and 6-for-8 from the charity stripe, too. She added five rebounds to go with team highs in assists (4) and steals (3) in this one..... but she also committed six turnovers. I don’t know if it counts as a defense, but four of them were in the fourth quarter, and three were with less than four minutes to play. Not great, obviously, but it wasn’t a game-wide problem for her.
Van Kleunen and Karlen were MU’s other double-digit scorers in this game with 13 and 10 respectively, and LVK just missed a double-double on nine rebounds. Marquette’s bench all together had a very productive day. The five subs chipped in 13 points, 16 rebounds, and four assists. A lot of that was just Walker, who ended up with 22 minutes played by the end due to McLaughlin’s injury, and she had seven points, four rebounds, an assist, and a steal.
In other substitution news, Nirel Lougbo made her season debut in this game. She played four minutes and added two rebounds to the proceedings. This was the first time that Lougbo had appeared in a game for the Golden Eagles since the 2020 Big East tournament championship game. She missed all of last season and the first 11 games of this campaign with what play-by-play man Patrick Reed referred to as a knee injury with setbacks and yes, that’s a plural there.
Speaking of setbacks, we should drop in a note on McLaughlin here. By the time the second half started, she was wearing a walking boot on her left foot, indicating that her injury in the second quarter was ankle related and not knee related. She did grab at her knee when she went down, so clarity there is nice. The not nice part is that McLaughlin dealt with nagging left ankle issues all throughout the 2019-20 season before getting offseason surgery that limited her to just seven games for Purdue between late December and late January last year before she shut it down. Given that she was supposed to miss the entire season off that ankle surgery but she played seven games anyway, and now has a walking boot on that same ankle..... well, I’m not an expert and I don’t know anything for sure, but that sounds potentially really bad for the rest of McLaughlin’s season.
How about some highlights, courtesy of FloHoops and GoMarquette.com?
Up Next: A week off for Christmas! Well, a week between games at least. The Golden Eagles will reconvene at some point after the holiday weekend and hit the road after that. The opponent? Connecticut. The Huskies are 6-3 overall and 1-0 in Big East play... but they have gone 1-2 in their last three games against three teams getting AP top 25 votes after all-everything guard Paige Bueckers suffered a tibial plateau fracture. That game will be on Wednesday, December 29th, and SNY will have the 6pm Central time broadcast from Storrs.