If Marquette women’s basketball can just get through Saturday, they get to take a break.
Saturday will be their seventh game in 15 days. Just a tad shy of playing every other day for two weeks straight. That sucks. After Saturday, though, Marquette does not play again for six days. I suspect that is going to feel like an amazing relief for head coach Megan Duffy and her squad.
Things have been going pretty good for them this season, and not because they’re already 4-2 in this seven in 15 stretch. Marquette is 13-4 overall and 10-3 in Big East play. They’ve already clinched the program’s sixth straight season with at least a .500 record in conference action. A win on Saturday would lock them in for a fifth straight winning season in Big East play. The only losses on the year are to 1) A Milwaukee team that is going from picked to finish seventh in the Horizon League to challenging for the league title, 2) Seton Hall when Marquette was coming off a nearly month long hiatus, and 3 & 4) the only two ranked teams in the conference.
These things happen.
Marquette is currently #44 in the NET through games played on February 10th, which includes MU’s win over Butler. Stack a couple more wins against the teams that MU is supposed to beat — aka each of the next three games — then roll the dice against DePaul and UConn on the road in the final two regular season games of the year. Maybe MU steals one down in Chicago. Everything is on track for Marquette to snag an NCAA tournament bid this season, as long as 1) the tourney happens and 2) the tournament stays at 64 teams as planned.
Just take care of business in Rhode Island, rest up, and attack the rest of the season.
Big East Game #14: at Providence Friars (6-8, 4-5 Big East)
Marquette is 18-5 all time against Providence. The Golden Eagles have won seven straight meetings in the series and three straight in Rhode Island.
These two teams met once already this season, and it was in Marquette’s third game of the season. The Golden Eagles were coming off of the aforementioned loss to Milwaukee where they did not look good at all for 20 minutes, played UWM even for 10, and then roared to life for the final 10. What happened against the Friars? Well, Marquette went on a 19-0 run bridging the first and second quarters to turn your normal 9-9 tie to start a game into a 28-9 lead, and then when PC broke that run, MU popped another 13 straight. Game over, MU wins by 49.
Now, Marquette probably isn’t going to assemble a 32-2 run again in this contest. Not because it’s on the road, and not because Providence has ironed out all of their problems or anything. No, just because it’s really hard to do that.
The loss to Marquette dropped Providence to 2-3 on the year, and that was their Big East opener just like it was for the Golden Eagles. Since then, PC has played just nine games with eight of them coming in conference action. Their four wins since then are a season sweep of Butler, a home date against St. John’s .... where they won by 23.... and a 12 point victory on the road against Creighton this past Wednesday night. They’ve only played twice since losing by 37 to Connecticut on January 9th, so that’s starting to make it hard to figure out what the Friars are at this point of the season.
What we know for sure is that the track to beating the Friars runs through stopping Mary Baskerville. The 6’3” junior from Connecticut leads Providence in scoring at 13.2 points per game and rebounding at 6.9 per contest. As we’ve talked about repeatedly in the past, she doesn’t actually play that much for head coach Jim Crowley, as she averages just 24.6 minutes per game. In the first meeting with the Friars, Baskerville went for just two points on 1-for-6 shooting and five rebounds in 31 minutes of action. She has played less than 25 minutes in each of Providence’s last three games, although she got 14 points and 10 rebounds in only 24 minutes against Creighton last time out. Marquette has the game plan to shut her down as proven from the first meeting, so hopefully they can just wash, rinse, and repeat.
Providence does have a trio of double digit scorers sitting behind Baskerville in the lineup. Kyra Spiwak, Alyssa Geary, and Chanell Williams are all averaging between 10 and 12 points per game. Marquette is going to have to take defending all of them seriously, especially when Baskerville is out of the game. Part of that is because they can score decently enough.... but also because Providence has literally no one else to turn to. After Williams at 10.4 per game, the next best scorer on the roster is Olivia Orlando, who is averaging 3.5 per game in her 13 appearances this season. Crowley will use his entire bench of 10 women nearly every single night.... but he’s relying on just four players to put points on the board.
Shut down Baskerville, make it hard for the other three do everything, take advantage, win. Seems simple enough.