Look, if I tell you that Marquette women’s basketball finished the first quarter up 14 and won by 19, you’re going to say, “hey, good job, mission accomplished.” That’s absolutely right.
But I suspect that head coach Megan Duffy is going to have a much different interpretation of the Golden Eagles’ 65-46 victory over Xavier on Friday night in Cincinnati. The middle 22 minutes of this game was probably not Marquette’s best basketball of this season, and so I suspect that the coaching staff is going to be pretty enthused about having things to focus on improving.
Other than Xavier scoring first, this game could not have started better for the Golden Eagles. It would appear that the Musketeers forgot that Karissa McLaughlin ripped them for 5-for-5 long range shooting in the first meeting, and the grad transfer from Purdue was happy to remind them by hitting her first two three-point attempts of the game to jumpstart an 8-0 Marquette run. That turned into 16-2 as Liza Karlen and Jordan King got into the three-point act and the Golden Eagles were up 16-4 with just under two minutes left in the period. A bucket by King as the period wrapped up left Marquette with a 20-6 advantage after 10 minutes, and Xavier had done their part to assist the Golden Eagles with 10 turnovers.
After a three-pointer from Nia Clark to start the second quarter, Marquette briefly flickered their lead to 15 on a basket from Chloe Marotta. This is where things went a little to the side on the Golden Eagles. Only a little. It was honestly unreasonable to expect Xavier to just roll over and take their whompin’ here, and they didn’t. The Musketeers spent the rest of the quarter keeping Marquette within sight, and a three from Mackayla Scarlett trimmed the margin to just eight, 28-20, with 69 seconds left in the half. It was 10 at the break though because McLaughlin dropped in two freebies with less than 40 seconds to go.
Aside: The referees hosed Marquette out of a possession at the end of the half. McLaughlin shot her free throws with 38 seconds left. Made both, clock stays stopped until XU inbounds. They missed a blatant shot clock violation, letting the game play on, and since XU made the bucket, Marquette inbounded with just a couple of seconds left on the clock and didn’t have a chance to do anything real. They reviewed after the half ended, and waved off the Xavier basket.
Except. If it was a shot clock violation, the clock stops with eight-ish seconds remaining. Eight seconds is more than enough time for Marquette to race the ball up the floor and get a quality shot. This was stolen from them by referee incompetence. Did it matter in the long run? No, but that’s not the point.
On to the third quarter, which kind of went like most of the second quarter. Xavier spent it refusing to let Marquette get too much into Double Digit Town, cutting it as low as seven on two free throws by Aanaya Harris with 7:02 to go and again on XU’s next possession with 6:35 to go. But MU kept chugging, and after 10 minutes, thanks to a last second transition bucket from Lauren Van Kleunen, the Golden Eagles were up 11, 48-37, with 10 minutes to go.
Marquette never led by less than 10 the entire fourth quarter, but given how the last 17 minutes had gone, it wasn’t exactly a safe feeling for the Golden Eagles. In fact, they pushed the margin to 14 and then immediately gave up back-to-back buckets to XU to hold a 10 point lead with 5:49 to go. You see the point here.
But as it turns out, that bucket from Kae Satterfield was Xavier’s last of the game. A slick transition layup for Karlen on a feed from Marotta was the trigger point on a 10-1 run by the Golden Eagles over the final five minutes of the game, and MU just calmly closed the door on the 19 point victory.
At the end of the day, it was that early hot shooting by the Golden Eagles that carried the day. Marquette was a perfect 4-for-4 from long range in the first quarter, and MU wrapped up the day at 5-for-10 and an effective field goal percentage of 53%. Xavier never truly recovered from that, even though they did cut the margin down to three possessions in the middle of the third quarter.
A weird trend to keep an eye on? Marquette was fine but not good at offensive rebounding in the first half, bringing in 27% of their misses....... but they added just one offensive rebound in the entire second half for a game long mark of 17%. Now, it’s entirely possible that Duffy and her staff told the squad to focus on getting back on defense to get stops while the Golden Eagles were carrying around a double digit lead for most of the game, so that’s fine..... but MU’s lack of offensive rebounding might have lost them the Villanova game back on Sunday, and with rebounding always being an emphasis for Megan Duffy, it’s something to keep an eye on.
We just barely missed out on history on Friday night as Liza Karlen came within shouting distance of a triple-double. The sophomore from Minnesota assembled nine points, nine rebounds, and a career best eight assists in her 30 minutes of action. She also added four blocks and two steals, so she was just all over the place even though her shot (4-for-11) wasn’t really working for her. If it was a 70 possession game instead of 65, who knows what we might have gotten. Alas. Lauren Van Kleunen and Jordan King finished up with a game high 17 points each as the pair combined to shoot 14-for-19 from the field and confound the Musketeers at all turns.
Up Next: It’s always a quick turnaround on these Big East weekend. On Sunday afternoon, Marquette will be in Indianapolis to take on Butler. The Bulldogs dropped to 1-14 overall and 0-6 in Big East play with a 103-69 loss to DePaul on Friday night. Tipoff fo Marquette is set for 1pm Central at Hinkle Fieldhouse.