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Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: vs Xavier

The Golden Eagles haven’t won back-to-back Big East games all season. Will that change against the Musketeers?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Win, loss, win, loss, loss, win, loss, win, loss, win.

That’s Marquette women’s basketball’s front half of the Big East schedule. The only time they did the same thing twice in a row is when they lost a nailbiter to Villanova at home on December 28th and fell by 13 at UConn three days later. 10 games, five wins, five losses, never two wins in a row.

MU did win two in a row since Big East play began since the start of league action was mixed with non-conference play. Back in early December, Marquette beat Loyola Chicago and Butler in back-to-back games..... but followed that up with three straight losses, the aforementioned Nova and UConn losses with the very ugly and awful home loss to Colorado before that pair of conference losses.

In short, it’s been a rough month-plus for the Golden Eagles, and not having Liza Karlen in the lineup for the last five contests — she’s out with a mouth injury but she has been dressing and warming up lately — hasn’t made things easier. It’s not a secret that head coach Megan Duffy has emphasized rebounding as a ticket to victory for her MU teams, but the Golden Eagles have been limited to their average offensive rebounding rate in league play or less in three of the five games that Karlen has missed. That’s not great news for a team that’s struggling on the offensive end all season long anyway. The defensive end isn’t better, getting beat for second chances at a number at or above MU’s average rate three times there as well.

Marquette sandblasted Seton Hall last time out, largely because the Pirates just could not hold onto the ball for extended stretches. That particular version of that game was a surprise, as it was definitely possible that MU could beat the Pirates since the two teams went at it hammer and tongs in South Orange earlier this season and SHU pulled away late. Thumping the Pirates? Unexpected. That gives the Golden Eagles a chance to stack up three straight wins as the next two contests are against the teams currently in 11th and 10th place in the standings and they have just two league wins between them.

Can Marquette springboard off the Seton Hall win, stack up two more, get on a roll, and head into the final stretch of the regular season with an eye on getting into the NCAA tournament? MU hasn’t taken a bad loss yet this season, and on Wednesday morning, they’re in the top 40 of the NET. ESPN’s Charlie Creme had Marquette as his First Team Out on Tuesday morning, so the margins may be razor tight for the Golden Eagles the rest of the way. Step #1 towards going from First Out to Last Four In at the very least? Getting a win on Wednesday night at home.

Stat Watch: Jordan King is six points away from tying and seven from passing Selena Lott for 24th place on Marquette’s all-time scoring list. She’s 16 points away from tying Kerri Reaves and 17 away from Courtney Romeiser as well, so there’s a chance that she could rise as high as 22nd all time after this game.

Stat Watch #2: Chloe Marotta has passed Allazia Blockton for the 10th most rebounds in Marquette history. Marotta is at 779 right now, nine more than Blockton had in her storied career, and Lauren Van Kleunen is in 9th place at 802 rebounds. That one will have to wait for next game at the very least.

Stat Watch #3: Jordan King has moved into eighth place on the all-time Marquette assists list. She needs nine more to tie and 10 to pass Danielle King in seventh place. Natisha Hiedeman is next, but she’s 29 assists away right now.

Big East Game #11: vs Xavier Musketeers (7-12, 0-10 Big East)

Date: Wednesday, January 25, 2023
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloSports, with Bob Brainerd and Michelle Griffin-Wenzel calling the action
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 19-7 all time against Xavier. The series started back in 1985 and was pretty even through the first nine encounters. The Musketeers won three of the first five meetings between the two teams once XU joined the Big East, but the Golden Eagles have now won 12 straight in the series.

Yep, Xavier has gotten to the midway point of the Big East calendar without a single conference win. That’s not terribly surprising, the Musketeers were picked to finish in 11th place this season. What is a little surprising is that they’re 0-10 after going 7-2 in non-conference play. Yes, yes, league play is always a step up from non-conference action, etc., etc., I get it. But Xavier didn’t play nothing but goofs in non-con play! They have two wins over NET top 200 competition! Yes, Cincinnati and Old Dominion would be the worst Big East team on Xavier’s schedule if they were in the league, but that’s not nothing!

In any case, Xavier’s real problem isn’t that they’re not winning Big East games, it’s that they’re getting hammered in Big East games. Xavier’s margin of defeat in league games so far this year:

6, 19, 22, 14, 28, 36, 19, 14, 35, 38

They’re getting further away from a win, especially when you realize that the six point loss to open the league schedule was against then-#16 Creighton! They lost by 14 at home to Butler. 7-13 overall, 2-9 in the league Butler. This is not a good basketball team, and given that this is head coach Melanie Moore’s fourth season at the helm, that is really not good news for her.

As much as one can defend anything that’s going on with the Musketeers, they have one player — Mackayla Scarlett, their leading scorer at 12.1 per game — who has started all 19 contests. Only one other player — Courtney Prenger, who is second on the team in minutes per game and has appeared in all 19 — has started more than 15 times. Three other Musketeers have appeared in all 19 games, and the fact of the matter is that it’s hard to build any kind of cohesion as a team if it’s hard to tell who is going to be playing or even playing big minutes from game to game.

Xavier is a reasonably talented long range shooting team, or at least they have multiple real threats to shoot it from outside the arc. Scarlett is one of three women connecting on at least 33% of their three-point field goal attempts, and Kaysia Woods leads the team at 39.4%. All three women are attempting at least three long range shots per game with Scarlett nearly up to five a night. With that said, Xavier doesn’t really try to lean into this strength. They’re playing at a relatively rapid pace and rank just #261 in the country in three-point attempt rate according to Her Hoop Stats. That’s great news for Marquette, as the Musketeers are one of the 30 worst two-point shooting teams in the country at just 38.1% inside the arc this season.

One thing that Xavier does exceptionally well is score off the pass. HHS has them at 330 in the country in assist rate and in just raw assists, they’re ranked #112 in the country per game. They do it as a team, as Scarlett and Shelby Calhoun — who has missed the last three games — are tied for the team lead at 2.8 per game, but they have eight regulars averaging at least one assist a night. If Marquette can disrupt their offensive flow and force them into iso opportunities, that’s going to give the Golden Eagles an edge.