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Marquette Basketball Big East Preview Primer: at Connecticut Huskies

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Can the Golden Eagles ride the wave from Wednesday night and win a third straight game for the first time all season?

NCAA Womens Basketball: Final Four-Notre Dame vs Connecticut Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette Golden Eagles (11-12, 6-10 Big East) at Connecticut Huskies (11-6, 8-6 Big East)

Date: Saturday, February 27, 2021
Time: 1:30pm Central
Location: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Connecticut

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Dawson Garcia, 13.1/game
Rebounds: Dawson Garcia, 6.7/game
Assists: D.J. Carton, 3.4/game

Connecticut Stats Leaders

Points: James Bouknight, 20.1/game
Rebounds: Tyrese Martin, 7.4/game
Assists: R.J. Cole, 4.3/game

KenPom.com Rankings

Marquette: #74
Connecticut: #32
Game Projection: Connecticut has a 72% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 71-64.

Last Time Out: I’m just going to re-publish part of my recap because I feel I nailed it the first time and there’s no reason to try and re-write it.

After Marquette led by eight at the half and came out of the locker room with a 10-0 run to go up 43-25 on Connecticut, it was all down hill from there.

UConn immediately ripped off a 23-4 run on their way to a 40-11 run to close the game and walk away from their first ever visit to Fiserv Forum with a 65-54 victory. Marquette is now 6-6 on the season and 2-4 in Big East play.

Yep.

Since Last We Met: Connecticut won their next two games to jump out to a 4-1 start in Big East play. However, 1) those games were against Butler and DePaul and 2) they were the first of eight straight games that James Bouknight would miss after Koby McEwen landed on his arm and injured him to the point where he needed a surgical procedure. After those two wins, UConn dropped four of the next five, only beating Butler at home to drop to 8-5 overall and 5-5 in the league. They got out of the slump by beating Xavier in Cincinnati, and then Bouknight returned in their next game, a 73-61 victory over Providence. They gave Villanova fits for 30 minutes at The Finn before falling by eight, but bounced back to take a 70-57 victory off of Georgetown on Tuesday night in their most recent game.

Tempo Free Fun: Marquette lost to Connecticut the last time out because they didn’t realize they had to defend Tyler Polley.

I mean, sure, there’s other reasons. But letting a guy shooting 3-for-11 on threes on the season go 5-for-8 against you is a big reason why you lose. Now, with that in mind, it’s not like the 3-for-11 was representative of his career. He came into 2020-21 shooting 39% on just over three attempts per game. He shouldn’t have been left open. That’s on the coaching staff for not digging deeper than just what he had been doing this year to that point.

Take away Polley’s 5-for-8, and UConn shot just 3-for-8 from long range in the game. That’s a good number, sure, but it’s not the blistering 50% that they hit with Polley’s numbers mixed in.

I’m not kidding about “didn’t realize,” either. Polley was 0-for-3 from the field at halftime, 0-for-2 from the arc. His first made three of the game cut the lead to 12. His second gave Connecticut the lead. Should Marquette have blown the 18 point lead that they had, or the 12 points between Polley triples? No, probably not! Like I said: there’s other reasons. But that’s why they blew the lead. They lost by the final margin of 11 points because of Polley, as he would hit three more triples the rest of the way.

Is that going to happen again? Probably not, especially since Marquette is going to be aware that they should stop that now.

But Connecticut is going to have James Bouknight for this game, or at the very least, a more healthy version of James Bouknight than they had for the 40 minutes in Milwaukee. Since returning from the elbow surgery that he required after the injury suffered against the Golden Eagles, he has been capital-J James capital-B Bouknight. 19.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steals. 51% on twos, 33% on threes.

Oh, and maybe he’s pissed off at Koby McEwen for injuring him. I’m not saying that Marquette needs to bench McEwen just to try to avoid firing up a very good basketball player any more than he already is. However, if someone accidentally locks McEwen in a broom closet for the game, maybe that’s not the worst thing to ever happen.

What else?

Marquette can’t shoot 28% on threes again. Marquette can’t let UConn round up 44% of their misses for a second chance. Marquette has to do better than 25% on their own misses. MU probably needs to get to the line more often than seven times. Jamal Cain can’t be the negative space (Offensive Rating of just 53) that he was in the first game. Hell, forget that, no one can have a subpar game, not with Justin Lewis and Oso Ighodaro on the “won’t be available for a long time” program that Steve Wojciechowski described before the North Carolina game.

Oh, we should probably talk about the impact of that game for a second.

The Stakes: Yeah, there are none for the Golden Eagles.

Kicking North Carolina’s ass on Wednesday night didn’t suddenly save Marquette’s season. Was it fun? Sure. All it did was balance out losing to DePaul (maybe, probably, not really), and so there’s still the other 11 losses that are keeping them away from an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. They’re not going to the Big Dance unless they win the Big East tournament.

So actual something to be gained stakes? No, nothing like that.

But would we, as Marquette fans, like to see the squad show some pride in themselves and close out the year on a hot streak? Sure! It would be super fun to see them figure it out, even if it is too late in the year to matter. It would be great to see Marquette win a third straight game for the first time this season! Seriously! That hasn’t happened yet! This is only the fourth time all year that MU has won two straight games!

Fingers crossed for that.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 4-6, but coming in with wins in their last two games, both on the road.

Connecticut Last 10 Games: 5-5, with wins in three of their last four, and the loss was on the road against Villanova.

All-Time Series: Marquette leads, 6-4.

Current Streak: Connecticut’s victory earlier this season snapped a three game winning streak by the Golden Eagles.

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