And we’re back!
Remember when we had to go weeks and weeks between Marquette women’s basketball games? It’s only been since Friday night this time. That’s neat.
Less neat is the situation that the Golden Eagles find themselves in at this point. MU has lost two straight Big East games for just the third time ever under head coach Megan Duffy, and there’s been a change in how we got there. Each of the first times it happened, it involved DePaul. In Year 1, Marquette opened up Big East play 0-2 on road trips to see DePaul and Creighton before winning eight of the next nine. Last year, it was a pair of home games that bit the Golden Eagles back-to-back, but it was Connecticut and DePaul that got them.
This time, it was on the road against Seton Hall and Creighton. No DePaul involved for the first time. Now, in a vacuum, there’s not much wrong with these losses. The Pirates were picked to finish ahead of Marquette this season, and Creighton has showed that they were wildly undervalued in the preseason poll as this year has gone along. But it has landed Marquette at 2-2 in league play and staring down the barrel of a third straight loss in league play, something that has never happened under Duffy’s guidance. The good news is that it can’t be a third straight loss overall since MU had that win over Cincinnati in the middle.
The other big problem here is exactly how Marquette ended up taking those two losses. Essentially, the Golden Eagles just lost containment on the game for a stretch in both instances. In the Seton Hall game, it was tied at 51 just a little bit into the fourth quarter before the Golden Eagles gave up a 16-0 run and lost by 12. Down in Omaha, Creighton turned a 21-17 Marquette lead into a 40-25 Jays advantage in about nine minutes of basketball. That’s a 23-4 run, a 19 point differential in a game that was decided by 17.
They’ve been right there both times. Right in their hands. Everything going fine, at least in terms of the scoreboard...... and then the defense just evaporates for about eight or nine minutes and that’s that. Game’s over.
Clearly defense is a problem in a 16-0 run or a 23-4 run. But at the end of 40 minutes, Marquette still looks okay. Her Hoop Stats says that MU only allowed 0.92 points per possession to SHU, and against Creighton, it was just 0.83. 40 minutes of defense was good.... but for a stretch there, it wasn’t. That’s the problem. The other problem? Well, the 0 and 4 kind of tell their story as well, don’t they? Marquette checked in with 0.66 and 0.63 points per possession in these two games, and that’s not good enough to win basketball games, even if the defense would have been best in the country type of stuff.
So, yeah. That’s where MU is at right now. Maybe not a very good offensive team, and a defensive team that loses focus for juuuuuuuust long enough to let a game slip away from them. As we’ll get into in a second, losing focus on defense for even two minutes on Wednesday may prove lethal.....
Big East Game #5: vs RV DePaul Blue Demons (12-3, 4-0 Big East)
Date: Wednesday, January 12, 2022
Time: 7pm Central
Location: McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloHoops with Bob Brainerd and Meghan McKeown on the call
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette is 30-48 all time against DePaul. The two teams have split the last eight meetings straight down the middle with the Golden Eagles taking a win in Chicago in the second meeting last season to hold the current advantage.
No doubt about it, DePaul has clearly shaken off their 14-10 record from a year ago which resulted in their first missed NCAA tournament since 2002. Sure, they started out 2-2, but when your losses are on the road against two ranked teams, who cares? They followed that up with seven straight wins, including one at then-#14 Kentucky, then a loss at home to Notre Dame right before Christmas then took as much as time off as Marquette did thanks to a game against UConn going in the bin for the time being. Their first game since Christmas was this past Friday, and they went to Providence and smashed the Friars, 98-77.
So they’re 12-3 overall and a perfect 4-0 in the Big East. That has them in first place officially in the standings, although the Blue Demons and the Huskies are both still undefeated. In a word, a clear big win for Marquette if they can figure it out.
Figuring it out is going to involve playing a whole hell of a lot of defense. Her Hoop Stats marks the Blue Demons as the #9 offense in the country at the moment. They’re 5th in points per possession and they make you play a lot of possessions, as their 82.5 per 40 mark is fourth best in the nation. Not only is there a lot of offense to defend, they’re also really good at it. #11 in field goal shooting percentage, #16 on two-pointers, merely #42 on threes, and #15 in effective field goal percentage. Essentially, the only thing they do poorly in terms of shots is get to the rim, and honestly, given their shooting percentage, they’re bad at shooting lots of threes where they’re just middle of the road.
When it comes to shooting those threes, it is a matter of which DePaul player you want firing away. Kierra Collier, Lexi Held, and Darrione Rogers, all of whom are north of 43% on at least 3.3 attempts per game? Bad plan! Sonya Morris or Deja Church, both of whom are sub-32% on over three attempts a game? Much better plan.
On the rare chance that DePaul misses a shot, they’re going to get a second chance. Nearly 41% of misses land back in a Blue Demon’s hand, which is ninth best in the country. This will be a stern test for Marquette, who is a great rebounding team on both sides of the floor, but did not show that against Creighton last time out.
The good news is that DePaul is very much a “we’re going to score a billion points, good luck keeping up” team. They don’t get stops. HHS says they’re #144 in the country on defense, and their points allowed per 100 possessions ranks #236 in the country. Based on shooting percentages — they’re eighth worst in the country in two-point shooting defense — it certainly looks like DePaul is selling out to force you away from shooting threes and will let you shoot whatever two-pointer you want. That’s definitely a choice, but if you score with the aplomb that DePaul does, it does make a certain amount of sense to go with a “they can’t keep up if they only shoot twos” structure. They also give up a metric ton of offensive rebounds, and MU will need to cash in on those when they come.
We’ve been talking about what DePaul is to this point, but not so much about who and the who is very important. We can’t get out of this preview without talking about Aneesah Morrow, a 6’1” freshman forward out of Chicago. She is the star of this DePaul squad, averaging a double-double on 18.6 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. Her 1.5 assists, 2.8 steals, and 2.0 blocks per contest are merely icing on the cake. All five of DePaul’s starters average double digits in points, so it’s not like taking Morrow out of the equation fixes anything, but the younger sister of former Marquette forward Ed Morrow will have to be accounted for every time down the floor.