Marquette women’s basketball hasn’t won three straight games this season since they clipped Texas and Gonzaga in the first two rounds of the Battle 4 Atlantis to start out the year 5-0. They’re just 8-7 since then, but the Golden Eagles come into Sunday afternoon’s Big East clash with two straight wins at their back. It’s the first time this season that Marquette has won two straight Big East games, and now they try for a three game winning streak in the league for the first time this season.
It’s a winnable game for the Golden Eagles. They pulverized Butler in Milwaukee earlier this season. Sure, the offense has been on a massive scuffle, but really, it’s been scuffling all year long if you look closely enough. Going on the road is never easy, and that’s a factor to take into account, and even without Liza Karlen, out with a mouth injury even though she’s been dressing for games and warming up with the team, the Golden Eagles should be able to get the win.
That’s good news, because Marquette’s NCAA hopes do kind of hinge on getting this win.
It’s not a “if they get this one, they’ll be fine” game. It’s a “if they lose this one, they can’t come back from it.” As of Saturday morning, Marquette is #39 in the NET, same place they were after beating Seton Hall on January 22nd. That’s good, because that clearly has them in the conversation for an at-large bid to the field.
Butler is #130. They’re not the worst team in the Big East, that would be the Xavier team that Marquette just beat by 24 on Wednesday, they come in at #226 as of Saturday morning. But the Bulldogs are second worst, and one of three Big East teams somewhere below #100 in the NET. That’s an important distinction, because the NCAA sorts “anything over #101” into the fourth column in the team sheet. #1 through #100? Broken up in to three different columns. That fourth column exists pretty much for the selection committee to say “hey, y’all don’t have any losses over there, do you?”
So you can see why it would be bad to have a loss over there. It would be neat if the NCAA did the home/neutral/away sorting like they do for men’s basketball...... because that would make this trip to Butler a QUADRANT TWO GAME for the Golden Eagles, since everything between #76 and #135 is Q2. Instead, it’s Bin #4 for this one, and thus Marquette has no forgiveness level if they don’t come home from Indianapolis with a win.
Big East Game #12: at Butler Bulldogs (7-14, 2-10 Big East)
Date: Sunday, January 29, 2023
Time: 1pm Central
Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Streaming: FloHoops, with Joey Lindstrom and Amber Stocks calling the action
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette is 19-9 all time against Butler. The first ever meeting was in 1986, and like all of the first four, the Bulldogs came away victorious. Since 1991, Marquette has lost just five times and comes into this one on a six game winning streak against Butler.
Well, I said back in December, before the first meeting between these two teams, that first year head coach Austin Parkinson was doing a pretty good job because the Bulldogs already had five wins. That was four more than the 2021-22 season already at that point, and all they needed was one Big East win to really put a cap on that idea. Marquette won that first meeting by 21 points after leading by as many as 30 at one point, and the Bulldogs dropped to 0-3 in the Big East. They would get that Big East win in their very next league game, getting past Xavier 79-65. A road win over Georgetown, 72-48, followed along on January 11th, so hey, that’s pretty decent work.
That did only move them to 2-6 in the league though, and Butler has lost all four of their conference games since then. They got blitzed by Creighton and Connecticut (okay, neither of those are surprises), fell by eight at home against Providence (it is what it is), but the most recent one might be the hardest one to deal with. Back on Wednesday, Butler pushed “we used to be ranked!” St. John’s to the wire before losing, 67-65. The Bulldogs had a 60-59 lead with three minutes left at Carnesecca Arena but couldn’t get over the finish line, even with a chance in the final 10 seconds to hit a game winning three or at least a bucket of any kind to force overtime.
Marquette won the first meeting between the two teams by obliterating Butler in the third quarter. It was a 10 point game at the half after MU led by seven at the end of the first quarter, so very clearly not out of control. The Golden Eagles started off the period 12-0 on their way to outscoring the Bulldogs 21-8 in that 10 minute stretch, and then extended the margin to 30 before head coach Megan Duffy emptied the bench. The details of it do make this second meeting interesting, as Liza Karlen had 10 points and 11 rebounds in the first encounter. Karlen remains out with a mouth injury, so we’ll see how the Golden Eagles replace her contributions.
Marquette had a pretty great offensive game last time around, shooting 26-for-47 (55%) for the first three quarters. They also clamped down on Butler extremely well, holding them to just 37% shooting overall and just 18% in the very decisive third quarter. They made Sydney Jaynes inefficient, forcing her into a 3-for-10 shooting performance, but leading scorer Jessica Carothers went for 13 points on 6-for-13 shooting. Can’t stop every one all of the time, of course, but it’s worth noting that MU does have things that they can improve on.
Rachel McLimore is Butler’s leading scorer, but the Golden Eagles held her to just six points in the first meeting. She’s the only Bulldog averaging in double figures at 11.0 per game. MU took away her three-point shot in that one, which is important because she 1) leads the team in attempts and 2) connects on over 38% of them. McLimore was 0-3 against MU, and recreating that would definitely be a good plan for Marquette.
Another fun thing to do would be maintain a strong rebounding edge. Marquette held Butler to just two offensive rebounds in the first meeting while grabbing 10 of their own on the other end amidst the pretty good shooting. I have it on good authority that when you 1) make a team shoot poorly and 2) only allow them to grab 7% of their misses, you can have a pretty good chance to win. Can the Golden Eagles do that again without Karlen in the lineup to snap up a team high eight defensive rebounds? We will have to wait and see.