For 30 minutes on Sunday, maybe a little bit longer than that, it appeared that Marquette women’s basketball had everything they needed to take a run at knocking off #8 UConn Huskies and handing the Huskies their second conference loss in nearly a decade and the second of the week.
At the end of the third quarter, right at the horn, Jordan King got a bucket to drop and MU led UConn, 47-45, with 10 minutes to play. Based on what happened next, it would seem apparent to me that legendary head coach Geno Auriemma said something to the effect of “how far out of the top 10 do you want to drop after losing to Villanova earlier this week?” Whatever it was, the message was clear: Play like you’re the #8 team in the country and go win this game.
And they did.
Marquette’s first possession of the fourth quarter was a turnover, a steal created by Azzi Fudd, and it led to a Dorka Juhasz three-pointer on the other end. Marquette answered with a jumper from Lauren Van Kleunen to retake the lead, 49-48, with 9:01 to play.
Marquette’s next field goal came with 1:20 to play.
Jordan King scored to trim UConn’s lead to 13, 67-54.
In the intervening nearly eight minutes, UConn had two empty possessions, as they converted at least a free throw on every single trip down the floor. Marquette? Six of their 15 turnovers in the game.
And that was that.
It’s not that UConn just started scoring easily, although they did, but that really has more to do with the turnovers than anything else. It’s that they were playing defense like their hair was on fire. Whatever they were doing for the first 30 minutes while going neck-and-neck and play for play with the Golden Eagles, the Huskies found an extra gear to kick into for the final 10 minutes of the game and roll easily to a 14 point win, 72-58.
I want to highlight two Huskies for two separate reasons. One is Azzi Fudd, who was the #1 high school prospect in the country coming into the season. It’s not that she didn’t live up to the billing here, it’s that I didn’t realize how badly she was killing Marquette until I opened up the box score to help write this recap. I didn’t realize that Fudd finished with a game high 24 points. Sure, I noticed that she was hitting shots and generally looking like a good basketball player, but I didn’t quite catch that she was absolutely destroying MU. Now, part of that might just be that she had 10 of her 24 in the final quarter, so up until then it just looked like she was having a nice game that you see all the time, and then the “yes, I’m kicking your ass” part was just part of the “UConn is kicking your ass” part of the game.
The other Husky is Evina Westbrook. For various reasons, mostly health related, UConn played just six women in this game. Westbrook is the one who came off the bench for the Huskies here, and I don’t know if she took that as some sort of personal mission to torment Marquette by making it clear that there was no drop off on the court when they made a substitution or what, but she was unreal. 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting and two steals. I swear that it felt like every single one of those nine things felt like a “oh my god, her again” moment when UConn really needed something to happen in their favor. Maybe it wasn’t actually, but it sure felt and seemed like that.
The Golden Eagles were led by 15 points and nine rebounds from Liza Karlen, and Jordan King (14) and Karissa McLaughlin (10) joined her in double digit town. Chloe Marotta had a near miss on a double-double with eight points and nine rebounds, and she was just behind King’s five assists with four of her own.
Marquette is now 17-7 on the season and 10-5 in Big East play. The NCAA tournament is looking prrrrrreetty doubtful.
Can I interest you in some highlights, such as they are, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and Fox Sports?
Up Next: Four straight road games. The Golden Eagles won’t be logging a lot of travel miles to start with, because the first one is this Wednesday night when they make the trip down I-94 to see DePaul. It’s going to be a big tilt for multiple reasons, but Marquette sitting in fifth place behind Creighton, DePaul, and Villanova, who all have four losses is one of them. The Blue Demons are just 2-2 in their last four games and needed double overtime to escape with a win at Georgetown on Sunday afternoon. MU won the game in Milwaukee earlier this season by three points in overtime.