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Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: at #7 Connecticut

The Golden Eagles head to the Nutmeg State with an eye on finishing the job against the Huskies the second time around.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 18 Butler at UConn Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

And so we enter the final stretch of the regular season for Marquette Golden Eagles women’s basketball.

Over the next five days, the Golden Eagles will play their final three games of the Big East slate, with two coming on the road and one — the regular season finale — coming at home in the McGuire Center. All three games are bound to make a major impact on where Marquette ends up getting seeded in the conference tournament, and right now, all three are incredibly crucial to Marquette’s hopes of an NCAA tournament bid.

As things currently stand, Marquette is 11-6 in Big East play, which has them in fifth place. They’re two wins and one loss behind DePaul and one win and two losses ahead of Seton Hall. MU can’t finish any worse than sixth place at this point, presuming that everyone is playing all 20 games of their schedule, as seventh place St. John’s has already recorded 10 losses. They also can’t finish any higher than third, as Creighton has already notched their 15th win of the year. That’s still a lot of variance involved, and the fact that Marquette split the season series with DePaul and Seton Hall, two of the three teams in flux around them, might cause a bit of wildness to the final standings when everything comes to a halt.

Through games played on February 22nd, Marquette is ranked #65 in the NET. With 36 at-large bids, that’s not an ideal place to be. That bears out in the bracketology work from ESPN’s Charlie Creme which was published on Tuesday morning. He has Marquette as the sixth team outside the field of 68, behind even the Villanova team that swept the Golden Eagles this season. That’s just one man’s opinion, of course, and that’s made evident by Russ Steinberg mentioning on a recent episode of Brawl Don’t Lie that he was surprised to see the Golden Eagles outside the field.

To make it simple: Marquette can’t really afford to take losses any more. That’s not great news given who Wednesday night’s opponent is, but that’s the kind of thing that happens when you let two games against Villanova slip through your fingers. That’s in the past now, and all MU can do is focus on what they can control: Doing whatever it takes to win their final three games of the regular season.

Big East Game #18: at #7 Connecticut Huskies (19-5, 13-1 Big East)

Date: Wednesday, February 23, 2022
Time: 6pm Central
Location: XL Center, Hartford, Connecticut
Television: SNY, with Allen Bestwick, Meg Culmo, and Maria Mariano calling the action
Streaming: Here if you’re in SNY’s home area, if you’re not
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 0-13 all time against Connecticut. This is probably not surprising news.

In the nine days between games against Marquette, UConn played twice. They also won twice, and they won easily twice. Last Friday gave them a road game against Xavier, and the Huskies went up 18-9 after one quarter and never looked back on the way to an 89-35 victory. Two days later they were back in Connecticut for a game against Georgetown at the XL Center. That was more of the same as UConn led by 11, 20-9, after 10 minutes, and the end result was a 41 point win, 90-49.

For the UConn fan in your life, that’s probably reassuring news. Their 14 point win over Marquette on February 13th was closer than that final margin indicates, and the Huskies were just days removed from their first league loss in nearly a decade. The fact that they went out and absolutely mauled two team that they should have absolutely mauled is good news coming out of a little bit of a rough patch.

It’s probably a little bit of bad news for Marquette, as this just means that UConn got a chance to work out whatever difficulties they were having. Part of their difficulties? Just merely not having Caroline Ducharme or Olivia Nelson-Ododa available to play. Both women missed the Marquette game with injuries but were back in the lineup against Xavier six days later. Ducharme chipped in 11 points, four rebounds, and two assists in just 13 minutes, while ONO went for 8, 4, and 4 in 15. Both came off the bench against the Hoyas just two days after that, with both recording north of 22 minutes of action. I’m going to guess that they’re feeling much better now, three days later.

We have to figure that part of the reason why Marquette was able to play with the Huskies at the McGuire Center is that they were limited to just six women that head coach Geno Auriemma was comfortable putting on the court. Even then, UConn was able to find an extra gear and run away from MU in the final 10 minutes. Megan Duffy’s ability to counter that gets a wee bit harder when you mix in two more players spreading the minutes out as well as the fact that the game is in UConn’s building.

Even with all of that other stuff going on, item #1 on the scouting report has to be “Don’t let Azzi Fudd do that again.” The freshman guard went 4-for-6 from behind the three-point line in Milwaukee to help her get to a game high 24 points, and she was particularly deadly in that fourth quarter push by the Huskies. Scoring 24 points can happen, that’s fine. But to shoot that well from outside? To do it on shots that were, largely speaking, uncontested? That can’t happen, not if you want to be able to take down a top 10 ranked team.