Turnovers and a “too little, too late” shooting performance were big problems for Marquette Golden Eagles women’s basketball on Sunday afternoon against #20 DePaul Blue Demons. At the final horn, it was DePaul 87, Marquette 85, but that doesn’t really tell the story of what happened to the Golden Eagles in their fourth loss of the season and second straight loss in Big East play.
It was a pretty neat first half, particularly as Marquette cut an eight point deficit with three minutes left down to just two at halftime. You can’t really ask for much more than being within a possession of a ranked team at halftime on your floor.
And then the second half started.
The Blue Demons went on a 19-4 run in the first 4:50 of the third quarter that left Marquette trailing 61-44. We can overhyperanalyze the final few minutes of the game and talk about if this then that if you want, but let’s just cut straight to brass tacks: You can’t give up 19-4 runs if you want to beat top 25 ranked teams, and you absolutely can not let that happen coming out of the locker room. Five of Marquette’s 22 turnovers in the game happened in this stretch, so it wasn’t even MU just not hitting shots for five minutes. Part of the problem here was self-inflicted.
Okay, that’s the bad news.
The good news is that it’s like the first five minutes of the quarter never happened, as MU closed the period on a 15-2 run. It was 42-40 DePaul at the half, and at the end of the third quarter, it was 63-59. Sure, that’s two extra points in the Blue Demons’ direction, but when it was 17 points five minutes earlier, you can’t complain too loudly. Marquette put themselves in a hole, and they immediately said “nuh uh” and yanked themselves right out of it.
That 15-2 run became 20-2 as Marquette scored the first two buckets of the fourth quarter, and a runner down the lane for Jordan King put Marquette out in front for the first time since 12-11 in the first quarter. Again, because I can’t express this enough: Marquette was trailing by 17 just six minutes earlier.
A three-pointer from Dee Bekelja put DePaul back in front by four points with eight minutes left, and suddenly Marquette ground to a halt. All of that action and movement they were getting on the Blue Demons disappeared. They were trading buckets with DePaul, but with the Blue Demons up four to start with, the trading wasn’t helping.
Then Camryn Taylor got free in the lane following a Claire Kaifes triple, and it was MU by 1 with 3:21 to go. A tenuous lead at best, but should MU have even been here after trailing by 17?
DePaul answered. It’s what top 25 teams do. Free throws from Lexi Held put DePaul back in front, and a pair from Sonya Morris made it 81-78. Marquette was now fighting against the tide, and they couldn’t put shots in the basket. MU would score just one more field goal in the game, and it came from Selena Lot with 24 seconds to go to pull MU within three. Claire Kaifes had looks. Jordan King had looks. They didn’t go down. DePaul made Marquette pay for the misses. The end.
We mentioned the turnover total earlier, so let’s hit the tempo free version. This was an 85 possession game. You can fit in a lot more turnovers in 85 possessions than, say, 71 like Marquette averages for the season. However, that doesn’t make 22 turnovers good. That’s still 25.9% of possessions. More than a quarter of the game, Marquette ended a possession with DePaul holding the basketball before MU took a shot. Several of those were DePaul just swiping the inbounds pass away from the Golden Eagles. The full court pressure was really the only defensive tactic that was working against Marquette. Even with 26% of possessions being a waste, Marquette still scored 0.96 points per possession in the game. Sometimes you can win when you score 0.96 per trip. You have to be better on defense than Marquette was here, or at the very least, you have to not let the other team go on a 19-4 run for five minutes at some point in the game.
It sounds like I’m being harsh on the team, and I’m not. It’s a bummer. Sure, they lost to UConn on Friday night, and yeah, they lost by a pretty big number. That’s fine. UConn’s a top five team. Yeah, DePaul’s ranked, but it’s DePaul. Marquette beat DePaul last year at the McGuire Center. Marquette can beat this DePaul team. It was a great opportunity to bounce back from that UConn loss... and they just missed. Not by much. But a miss is a miss.
We have to wonder how gassed Marquette was. Not because they had to make that furious rally to pull the game even. No, this was Marquette’s fourth game in seven days due to rescheduling of COVID-related postponements. Would MU have played a better game if they had been allowed two days in between their last one and this one? What if this was only their third game in seven days? Would the legs have been a little fresher? A little extra lift on those late three-point attempts from King and Kaifes? Who can say?
How about some highlights, courtesy of FS1 and GoMarquette.com?
Up Next: Marquette gets two whole days off before they’re back in action. At least they don’t have to travel for the next game. Butler will be coming to the McGuire Center for the next contest on the schedule. The Bulldogs are 1-12 on the season and 1-11 in Big East play. They have yet to play a game in the month of February and are coming off a 37 point loss to Villanova on January 31st..... which is the only game they’ve played since losing by 38 to Marquette in Hinkle Fieldhouse on January 24th. Tipoff is set for 1pm Central Time, and it will be streamed on FloHoops.