After 20 minutes of basketball on Wednesday afternoon, we had watched two 18-15 quarters, one going each way, and Marquette women’s basketball found themselves tied with #24 DePaul at 33 points each. It was a nice 20 minutes between these two rivals who have faced off in each of the past four Big East tournament championship games. A little low scoring than what we’ve come to expect from them, but a nice start to a game.
And then Marquette had enough of that.
Towards the end of the third quarter, the Golden Eagles pushed their lead into double digits, outscoring the Blue Demons 30-23 at the end of the 10 minute segment. MU never went on what you would call a run, never anything significant. Just four in a row here, five in a row there. Never a lot, never a gigantic boom. But slowly but surely, they pulled away, and kept right on doing that in the fourth quarter on their way to an 85-71 victory at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.
It’s the first win over a ranked foe this season for Megan Duffy and her team, and considering that the Golden Eagles just picked up one lone 25th place vote in the most recent AP poll, the timing could not have been better. Marquette didn’t just move to 14-3 in the Big East, either. They clinched the #2 seed in the Big East conference tournament, thus guaranteeing that the Golden Eagles can not face Connecticut until the championship game at the earliest.
There were two keys to this game. The first is that Marquette didn’t let DePaul’s three-point shooting kill them. The Blue Demons aren’t the world’s greatest shooting team, but they really love shooting threes. Today, less than 20% of DePaul’s shots came from behind the arc, a big drop from their season average. Part of that is because they were a woeful 1-for-10 in the first half and only attempted four more the rest of the game. They weren’t hitting so they stopped shooting. MU had a little bit to do with that, but that’s an intentional change by the DePaul coaching staff.
The other key is that Marquette knew exactly how to handle the press that DePaul throws at opponents. Sure, occasionally, the Golden Eagles got tripped up by the effort by the Blue Demons. That’s how you end up turning it over 18 times in the game and 10 alone in the second half. But for the most part, MU knew exactly who was going to move where in the DePaul structure, and just kept the ball moving on their side of things to continually perfectly counter it and actually start putting up transition buckets. MU’s press break was so effective that DePaul had to abandon the press as the game wore on because head coach Doug Bruno made the decision that getting back on defense was the safer bet than attempting to attack constantly. DePaul depends on that trapping press style in order to create quick transition buckets because they are not good when it comes to the ol’ half court defense. Between scoring easy transition buckets and getting to attack a not good defense when things slowed down, Marquette shot 69% from the field in the third quarter and 71% in the fourth.
It’s easy to pull away from your opponent when your shots keep going in.
Four of the five Golden Eagles’ starters scored in double figures, led by 25 points from Selena Lott as she continued her run of great performances. She added six rebounds, four assists, three blocks, and four steals. With all that, I will forgive the fact that she was responsible for one-third of MU’s turnovers on the day. Camryn Taylor ran wild (8-for-10 shooting!) for 20 points and 11 rebounds, Lauren Van Kleunen chipped in 16, and Jordan King went for 13/6/4 with three steals.
How about some highlights, courtesy of FloHoops and GoMarquette.com?
Up Next: Well, Marquette will be able to dodge Connecticut until the Big East title game... at least in the tournament bracket. They won’t be able to dodge the Huskies when Monday night rolls around. The Golden Eagles wrap up the regular season on March 1 when they visit Storrs to face #1 ranked Connecticut. At least, I presume they’ll still be #1 when we get there. That game is set to start at 7pm Central time, and CBS Sports Network will have the broadcast.