Things are going fine for Marquette women’s basketball. Not well. Just fine.
I’d have a much rosier opinion about where things were going for the Golden Eagles if they had come away from last Sunday afternoon with a win over Villanova. Instead, Marquette dropped a game to the Wildcats, and now they’re 4-3 in Big East play.
That’s not particularly great, especially without a game against UConn in there, and it’s definitely not helping MU out towards earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. On the flip side, Marquette currently sits in fourth place in the Big East, which is exactly where they were picked to finish. We can have a long conversation about how four teams have a combined three wins in the league at this point of the calendar if you want, but the fact of the matter is that Marquette is still doing better than most of their conference rivals.
With that said, Marquette is starting to run out of time to make themselves look a little bit better. This weekend will give us games #8 and #9 in Big East action, and that’s out of a 20 game schedule. We’re just about to the halfway point, and as of last Friday morning — before losing to Villanova, remember — ESPN’s Charlie Creme had the Golden Eagles as a Next Four Out team. In particular, the fourth of the NFO teams, and that’s even taking into account that the NCAA has expanded the tournament to 68 teams this season. At this point, Marquette has become a “can’t make any mistakes” team, based on the opportunities on the calendar ahead of them.
That’s not just a game by game result “no mistakes” situation. The Golden Eagles don’t have much of a margin for error on the floor. Look no further than last Sunday’s Villanova game where Marquette logged just three offensive rebounds. 11% if you prefer to think about it that way, well off the team’s top 20 in the country pace of 39%, and whaddya know, three point home loss to a Wildcats team that’s still not even in the NET top 100 after beating MU.
Control what you can control is the old saying, right? At this point, Megan Duffy and her team can’t control what’s happened in the past. All they can do is learn from it, figure out what went right and what went wrong, adapt in the future, and control what they can control. For this weekend, that’s the chance to go out to Ohio and Indiana with the opportunity to pick up two much needed road wins.
Big East Game #8: at Xavier Musketeers (6-9, 1-5 Big East)
Date: Friday, January 21, 2022
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
Streaming: FloHoops, with Mike Schmaltz, Paul Fritschner, and Kelly Hallinan on the call
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette is 18-7 all time against Xavier. The series started back in 1985 and was pretty even through the first nine encounters. The Musketeers won three of the first five meetings between the two teams once XU joined the Big East, but the Golden Eagles have now won 11 straight in the series.
Xavier was 3-3 on the season when Marquette squared off against them in early December to open Big East play. That one went in favor of the Golden Eagles by a wide margin, nearly 30 points in fact, and things have not really gotten better for the Musketeers since then. They’re just 3-5, including losing four of their five Big East games since. The lone league victory? A 22 point #BEATEMDOWN at home against incredibly woebegone Butler. XU comes into Friday night with five days off but riding a three game losing streak after falling on the road to Connecticut by 37 last Saturday.
Nia Clark remains Xavier’s leading scorer, although she missed the three games directly before the UConn contest. She’s averaging 13.3 per game to make her the only Musketeer to average more than 10 points per game. Kae Satterfield is #2 on the team in scoring at 9.7 per game, but she’s tops in rebounding at just over 7.1 caroms per contest. Shaila Beeler has a slight edge on Clark for the XU lead in assists, 3.7 to 3.2 per game. Both women are not exactly trustworthy with the ball though, as they both have a turnover rate north of 23%.
Turnovers were part of the reason why Marquette won big in the meeting earlier this season, as Xavier gave it away on 21% of their possessions. That wasn’t the biggest part though. Just straight up shooting the ball was the deciding factor. Xavier shot 37% from the field and 20% from long range in that one, combining out to 38% in effective field goal percentage. Meanwhile, on the other end of the court, the Golden Eagles hit 47% of their shots and a whopping 58% from long range. That included a 5-for-5 night from Karissa McLaughlin and a 2-for-3 from Jordan King. It’s rare that MU has things going that well from outside the arc, and so the fact that MU grabbed up 50% of what few misses there were for them just made things even worse for Xavier.
Marquette probably isn’t going to shoot like that again, so a calm and focused approach to getting the best shots possible is the pathway to victory. Xavier is not a good rebounding team on either end, but they absolutely can be worked over on the offensive glass. They rank just 300th in the country in defensive rebounding rate this season according to HerHoopStats.com, and so that makes it seem like the Golden Eagles should be able to lean into that strength yet again to help them come away with the road win.
Big East Game #9: at Butler Bulldogs (1-13, 0-5 Big East)
Date: Sunday, January 23, 2022
Time: 1pm Central
Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Streaming: FloHoops, with Johnny Soper and Rachel Galligan on the call
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette is 17-9 all time against Butler. The first ever meeting was in 1986, and like all of the first four, the Bulldogs came away victorious. Since 1991, Marquette has lost just five times and comes into this one on a four game winning streak.
In the preview for the first meeting this season between these two teams, I outlined how badly Butler was getting smashed on a regular basis out there on the basketball court. The more cynical minded amongst you might point out that this was a bad plan in retrospect as Marquette “only” beat Butler by 14 points and a lot of that came just by being up 11 at halftime.
Fair play to you.
It’s also worth noting that Butler did stop getting blown off the court for a minute after playing Marquette. A 4OT loss at home to Denver. A 12 point loss at Illinois. An eight point win (!), their only victory of the season over Evansville. Nice stuff there.
And then they lost by 22 at Xavier on December 29th and didn’t play again until January 12th.... when UConn beat them by 45. And then Creighton beat them by 51. And that was their last game before hosting DePaul on Friday night in their first game of this weekend.
So, yeah. More of the same from the Bulldogs it seems. Whether that’s because they’re not a good basketball team or because taking about two weeks off was bad for team chemistry or because COVID issues are affecting their conditioning.... who knows.
Celena Taborn led Butler in scoring against Marquette back in December with 14 points, and that’s right about her team high season average of 13.8 now. Admittedly, that average is being propped up by a 33 spot against Denver in four overtimes as well as 26 points in BU’s lone win of the season. She’s still the only Bulldog averaging more than 10 points a game no matter how she’s getting there. Zoe Jackson and Alex Richard are just missing that double digit marker at 9.3 and 9.2 points a piece.
It’s probably not particularly great news for Butler that their best rebounder has only started in seven of 14 games this season. That’s Tenley Dowell, who will round you up about five rebounds a night on average. That’s probably all the time that we need to spend talking about BU’s rebounding, because they’re really not good at it on either end.
Butler shot 2-for-16 from long range against Marquette in the first meeting this season, and that is somehow worse than their season average of just 27% from beyond the arc. Even weirder, BU ranks #39 in the country in terms of what percentage of their shots come from out there. Trinity White is their best shooter at exactly 33.3% on the year, so the Golden Eagles don’t need to worry about anyone firing away. Or, rather, at least they don’t need to prepare to worry about someone. If MU can somehow convince White and Zoe Jackson to go a combined 2-12 again like they did in Milwaukee, that’s probably good news for the Golden Eagles.