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#19 Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: vs #20 Creighton

One of the biggest games in a long time at the McGuire Center happens to also be the first Big East game of the season.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament South Regional-Princeton vs Creighton Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Normally the first Big East game of the season for Marquette women’s basketball earns a rundown of the entire league so far. However, the schedule is a bit weird in that regard. Marquette/Creighton is the first Big East league game of the year but between now and MU’s second league game — on New Year’s Eve against UConn — there are just seven league games, and three of them are on December 30th. So, with that in mind, we’re going to sit back, let the season continue to develop a little bit more, and then do a whip-around of where everyone is at when MU heads out to face the Huskies.

This gives me an opportunity to spend time in this game preview pointing out something rather interesting about Wednesday night’s matchup against the #20 ranked team in the country. This is a game between two ranked teams, as Marquette was sitting at #19 in the Associated Press poll on Monday. That made me wonder: When was the last time we saw a Ranked vs Ranked game at the McGuire Center?

As expected, it was during the 2018-19 season, the last time that Marquette was ranked for more than a week at a time. On January 4, 2019, #24 DePaul came to Milwaukee to face #20 Marquette. That game was the second time that season that the Golden Eagles had hosted a ranked vs ranked game, and the second time in less than a month. When Notre Dame came to town on December 22nd, the Fighting Irish were #2 in the country, and MU was at #19.

I would like to keep going to chronicle the history of ranked vs ranked games at the Al….. because we’re not going to be at this very much longer. February 26, 2011: #7 DePaul at #24 Marquette. February 17, 2007: #20 Louisville at #21 Marquette. February 3, 2007: #6 Connecticut at #16 Marquette.

That’s it. That’s the list.

Wednesday is the sixth ranked vs ranked game that Marquette has ever hosted. Not just at the McGuire Center, but at all ever. Remember: MU was only ranked for three weeks in program history — all towards the end of the 1999-2000 season — before the 2006-07 season.

So, yeah, it’s kind of a big deal. It was already a big deal: Marquette looking to stay unbeaten, Marquette looking to extend the longest winning streak to start the season in program history, winner gets to be all alone in first place until Saturday when St. John’s and Villanova square off, winner gets to make a case to be ranked higher on Monday, loser hopes they’re still ranked in the next poll. There’s a lot on the line within the 40 minutes of the game, but the game itself is a fairly historical event.

Big East Game #1: vs #20 Creighton Bluejays (7-1)

Date: Wednesday, December 13, 2023
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloHoops
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Bluesky Updates: @AnonymousEagle

Marquette is 13-17 all time against Creighton. The Bluejays won the season sweep last season to give them three straight wins in the overall series, but the Golden Eagles had won five straight before that and seven of the last 12.

Creighton is a slightly confusing team so far this season. After starting off the year picked to finish second (aka first in the non-UConn division) and ranked in the AP poll, the Bluejays posted two lopsided wins….. and then lost by 12 at home to Green Bay. Admittedly, the Phoenix are the favorites in the Horizon League, but that’s a “wait, what?” result at the very least. Then they walked into Pinnacle Bank Arena and squeaked past Nebraska to start off the winning streak that they currently find themselves on.

Ever since that win over the Huskers, they’ve gone back to stomping people. +11 and +14 in Cancun over Georgia Tech and Michigan State, then nearly doubled up Northern Iowa by scoring 115 points in just 40 minutes, and then +12 on the road on Sunday against Wyoming. We’ll call the Green Bay game a hiccup then, but at the very least, it’s a weak spot in the armor for the Golden Eagles to study.

Then again, not all things have to be complicated. After all, Creighton shot 35% from the field in that game and just 6-for-26 (23%) from long range. That’s half their shot attempts from behind the arc, and given that they were down 22-9 after the first quarter was over because Green Bay shot 73% and the Jays shot just 21%, you can see why they maybe tilted a little bit harder than they would like towards firing off some long range bombs to try to hustle back into the game.

On average this season, Creighton is going to take about 37% of their shots from behind the three-point line. That’s 37th most in the country according to Her Hoop Stats, and given that their 35% shooting percentage ranks #52 in the country, that’s a pretty good decision. Most of those threes are going to come from Morgan Maly (7.4 attempts per game) and Lauren Jensen (6.1), and based on how things are going here, Marquette definitely has a preference on which one should be shooting more. It’s Jensen, who is hitting just 26.5% of her threes this season. Last year’s mark of 34.7% was a career low for her during her three seasons in Omaha, so there’s better than solid odds that Jensen will steer out of this skid. Until then, MU probably would rather see her shoot instead of Maly and her 37%…. Or even worse, Emma Ronsiek, Molly Mogensen, or Kennedy Townsend, all of whom shoot better than 45% from behind the arc this year.

Turnovers could be the determining factor in this game. Marquette has been a bit sloppy with the ball this season, but Creighton doesn’t force many turnovers themselves. The Golden Eagles do have a nose for generating turnovers from their defense, but the Bluejays don’t really turn it over that much. One side or the other is going to win those two respective battles in this game, and if it’s one team winning both battles, that might be enough to turn the tide on this particular day.