At face value, there’s nothing wrong with losing on the road to Seton Hall like Marquette women’s basketball did this past Sunday.
It stinks because it cost Marquette their first Associated Press top 25 ranking since 2019, but it’s not a bad loss. While the Pirates struggled a little bit to start the season, it’s clear that they’re playing like the team that made a deep WNIT run a year ago and has their eyes on an NCAA berth this season. Dropping a road game to them isn’t a problem for Marquette’s overall season success. It’s really hard to go through conference play without a loss, and with three teams in the top 25 right now and three more (including Marquette) receiving AP votes this week, it’s even more likely to take road losses in that kind of a league.
But still, it was a game that Marquette clearly had a chance to win, and it would have been a pretty good win for the Golden Eagles since it was a road game. The goal for Marquette has to be to take that as fuel going forward, something to propel them along, something to remind them that while losses against high quality teams are fine, they have to make sure that they take care of business against everyone else.
Saturday’s game is one of those “everyone else” games. It’s also MU’s first game since that Seton Hall loss since Wednesday’s scheduled contest against Morgan State got canceled for health and safety reasons on MSU’s end of things. On top of that, it’s also Marquette’s only game between the Seton Hall loss and a home game against Butler way off in the future on December 18th. I’m not a Division 1 coach, so I don’t know the ins and outs of making sure your team is mentally prepared, but it feels like all the circumstances around this one makes it a pretty big trap game for Marquette. The weirdness of being ready to play on Wednesday but losing it, the weirdness of knowing there’s another week off after this one coming after nearly a week off.... you get the idea.
We talked about it briefly in the recap of the Seton Hall game, so it’s worth mentioning here: Her Hoop Stats marked MU’s outing against the Pirates as their worst defensive performance of the year at 0.95 points allowed per possession. This is a good news/bad news situation. It’s good that “a bad game” is still under a point per trip for MU’s opponent. It’s bad that Marquette’s offense wasn’t able to overcome that kind of an output. In fact, while the Golden Eagles do rank #48 in the country in HHS’ Offensive Rating department — and that’s good — they have scored 1.00 points/possession just once this season. That was exactly 1.00 vs Holy Cross. While winning with defense is great, because that can travel from gym to gym with you, it’s a slight problem when MU’s offense is struggling to put up the kind of offense needed to beat teams getting less than a point per trip down the floor. Something to keep an eye on, at the very least.
Game #10: vs Loyola Chicago Ramblers (3-7)
Date: Saturday, December 10, 2022
Time: 2pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: MUTV on YouTube, with Jackson Gross, Trevor Hilson, and Ben Schultz calling the action
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette is 11-8 all time against Loyola Chicago. The Golden Eagles have won eight straight in this series dating back to 1994. The most recent encounter was a 92-30 MU victory in November 2017. Yes, you read that right, it was and still is Marquette’s record for largest margin of victory as the Golden Eagles outscored the Ramblers 28-1 in the second quarter and held them without a field goal for over 20 minutes.
This Loyola team is probably not that bad, but also they are the second worst team that Marquette will play this season, at least according to what the NET (LUC is #280 on Friday morning) looks like right now. The Ramblers come in with three losses in their last four games, with the win coming by way of a 57-54 home victory over Bradley. They trailed by as many as 13 points early in the third quarter and by double digits with 5:27 to go in the third as well before outscoring Bradley 31-16 the rest of the way. Honestly, that “31 points in 15-ish minutes” thing is highly instructive for Marquette in their game prep. That’s way over half the points that Loyola scored in that entire game, and while Bradley has to carry some weight for what happened there, Loyola still made the plays to do that.
Beyond that, Loyola does have three contests that will be particularly helpful for MU’s prep for this game. The two that will factor in the most in the coaching staff’s gameplanning will be the 76-66 road loss to the same Milwaukee team that Marquette beat 73-47 just a few days later and Loyola’s 69-56 home win over St. Francis (PA). MU beat the Red Flash 83-40 just two days after they played the Ramblers. The third game was the last time out for Loyola, losing at home, 78-52, to DePaul. That was just on Wednesday night, so I don’t know how much analysis that the MU coaching staff would have gotten to do on that one. But given MU’s familiarity with Big East rival DePaul, there has to be something to mine out of that in a short time.
Speaking of the Big East and familiarity, the Ramblers do have two women who could operate as player/coach for this game. Sophia and Emma Nolan transferred from St. John’s to Loyola in the offseason. Three years with the Red Storm is an awful lot of time spent preparing to play Marquette relative to the rest of this roster, so it will be interesting to see how much the Nolan twins help preparing their teammates. In a slightly odd twist of circumstances, Sophia is the one who is making an impact with the Ramblers on the court. If she plays against Marquette — and she has played in every game with eight starts this season — Sophia will match her SJU season high for games played with 11, and she’s close to logging twice as many minutes as she did in three season with the Johnnies. Emma was a part time starter and regular rotation player for Joe Tartamella in Queens, but she’s averaging just 6.7 minutes a game and hasn’t played at all in two games this year.
Sophia Nolan is the #2 scorer on the team this year, making use of 42% three-point shooting to get to 10.5 points per game. Maya Chandler is the top scorer, getting to 12.8 a night. The 5’7” guard from Indiana is hitting 38% of her three-pointers, which is pretty good stuff, and she chips in 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists a game as well. Sitori Tanin, a 6’2” forward from Middleton is in her third season with Loyola, and leads the squad with 5.8 rebounds per game. Senior Sam Galanopoulos is directing the action with a team high 2.9 assists per game, but watch out for freshman Kira Chivers off the bench. She averages nearly 25 minutes a night in a reserve role, but is just barely behind Galanopoulos in the assists column at 2.4 per outing.
Marquette isn’t a speedy team this year, but they are playing much faster than Loyola wants to go. The Ramblers are one of the slowest tempo teams in the country according to Her Hoop Stats at just 66.5 possessions per game, #335 in the nation, while MU is running around in the middle of the pack at north of 71 possessions/game. If the Golden Eagles can turn it into a track meet, that’s probably good news.... but remember that part about Loyola scoring 31 points in 15 minutes? If speeding the Ramblers up isn’t the key to victory, then rebounding certainly will be. I feel pretty confident saying that Megan Duffy is telling her team that Loyola is a bad offensive rebounding team and a mediocre at best defensive rebounding team. The Golden Eagles live on the glass on both ends of the court, so look for Marquette to take advantage of a system edge there.