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RV Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: vs St. Francis (PA)

The Golden Eagles welcome the Red Flash to the McGuire Center for their first full game after starting to earn AP top 25 votes.

NCAA Women’s Basketball First Round - College Park
This is Frankie The Friar, SFU’s mascot.
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Here’s the big question for Marquette women’s basketball right now: How much did Battle 4 Atlantis alter the trajectory of the season?

The Golden Eagles went to the Bahamas with a first round game against the #3 team in the country and a pretty strong possibility of going 0-3 in the tournament even if they are a team capable of getting to the NCAA tournament in March. Instead, they beat the #3 team in the country — and did it without anything resembling a fluke type of performance — and then grabbed onto a Gonzaga team earning votes last week coming off a win over then-#6 Louisville and beat them, too. THEN they faced a UCLA team that was receiving votes in last week’s AP poll and were upgraded to #20 after beating then-#11 Tennessee on Sunday.... and fought tooth and nail with the Bruins into overtime before finally losing a handle on the game and taking their first loss of the season.

Now Marquette is the unofficial #27 team in the country, just six points shy of the 25th and final place in the Associated Press top 25. I haven’t dug in too deeply here, but there’s a real argument that Marquette is holding the two best wins in the country right now. This has to mean something long range as the season goes along. MU has put themselves in position to defend an NCAA tournament at-large berth before anyone even took a turkey out of the oven on Thanksgiving, and that is incredible. It’s incredible on face value, and perhaps even more impressive under the guise of “well, hopefully they can play their way into an NCAA tournament spot by the time we get to March.”

Perhaps the best part about this? We haven’t seen Marquette play very well yet this season, at least not on both ends. They have been absolute nails on defense, with their “worst” performance of the season by way of points per possession coming against Gonzaga according to Her Hoop Stats. That was 0.81 points per possession allowed, and let me tell you something: You’re going to win a lot of damn basketball games when 0.90 points per possession allowed is a bad day for you. MU’s offense has been scattershot at best, peaking at 1.00 points per possession against Holy Cross. That’s their only game north of 0.90/possession, and I don’t think I’m telling tales out of school to suggest that the Golden Eagles are going to need to find a new gear on offense if they want to keep this season going in a good direction. At some point, someone is going to score against them better than anyone else has this year, and Megan Duffy’s squad is going to have to figure out a way to match them. It’s just a simple case of making shots — #147 in the country in eFG% largely because they’re #196 on two-pointers — and not turning the ball over, which is happening on 19% of possessions, and you do not want to be middle of the road in that department (#145) like they are right now.

BY THE WAY: This Sunday matinee game that we’re previewing? It’s MU’s final tune up before Big East play starts with a road trip to see Georgetown and Seton Hall next week. There are more non-conference games to come, but it would definitely be a good thing to see the Golden Eagles torch some nets on Sunday at the Al.

Game #7: vs St. Francis (PA) Red Flash (0-6)

Date: Sunday, November 27, 2022
Time: 2pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloHoops
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 2-1 all time against St. Francis. The Red Flash won the first meeting back in 2002, but the Golden Eagles have taken the next two, one in 2009 and one in 2016. That last one featured Marquette rolling up 104 points while trailing by 12 in the first half and leading by as many as 18 in the second.

We put off writing this preview until after SFU’s Friday afternoon road contest against Loyola Chicago. There was more than enough time to put it together on Saturday morning, so why not, y’know? As it turned out, all that changed in terms of what’s going on with the Red Flash is the statistics. St. Francis dropped to 0-6 on the year on Friday, falling 69-56 to the Ramblers. Six losses, six straight games without clearing 60 points scored. I guess the good news is that it’s only their fourth game of the season allowing more than 60 points?

This probably isn’t the start to the season that head coach Keila Whittington wanted to see in her fourth season in charge of the Red Flash. Yes, part of this is what you would call “scheduled losses” like losing at then-#25 Michigan, and maybe even their visit to Xavier depending on how you feel about the Musketeers this season. SFU has only played one home game so far this season, which tells you a lot about potential outcomes as well. With that said, they were picked to finish fourth in the NEC this season. They aren’t supposed to be a bottom of the barrel team, but then again, they also went 8-22 a year ago with an 8-11 mark in NEC action, so this isn’t that far from that. They’ve also been a sub-200 Her Hoop Stats team in each of Whittington’s first three seasons in charge with two down below #300, and that was definitely not the case for the previous administration.

Sophomore forward Layla Laws is SFU’s top scorer this season, giving the Red Flash 9.7 points per game. It is worth noting that she started in their first five contests but came off the bench against Loyola.... but then played 35 minutes. She rebounds it well, averaging 4.8 a game so far, but she isn’t a shooter at 23% on 13 attempts so far this season. Junior Aaliyah Moore might actually be the most notable name on the roster for this game, and not just because the 6’0” forward is leading the team in rebounds at 8.5 a night. Moore lists her hometown as Milwaukee and attended West Bend West High School, so it’s a safe bet that there will be a pretty strong contingent of SFU supporters at the McGuire Center for this one.

Junior Filippa Goula is the team leader in assists at 3.5 per game, and given SFU’s problems at putting the ball in the net, that’s actually pretty good. By rate, the 5’6” guard from Greece and former junior college player is a top 100 in the country distributor per Her Hoop Stats. Marquette is going to have to keep an eye on Adison Novosel, a 5’11” guard from Ohio. She’s leading Saint Francis in long range attempts at 5.0 per game.... and she’s the only player on the SFU roster converting triples at a reasonable rate..... and she’s only at 33.3% this season. At least so far this year, Marquette can deal with anyone else shooting a three, at least until they make one.