On Saturday afternoon in Cincinnati, Marquette women’s basketball played a game of Xavier Roulette. The Musketeers came in without a win in 18 tries in Big East play, and the last thing that the Golden Eagles needed at this point of the season, with the NCAA tournament in sight, was a bad road loss.
It wasn’t Marquette’s best effort, and 22 turnovers tells you that’s the case, but Megan Duffy’s team figured out a way to get a 58-46 victory over Xavier to move to 12-7 in Big East action. The win clinches a top five finish for Marquette, and the Golden Eagles already knew they couldn’t finish better than fourth. It does lock them into a 4/5 game in the conference tournament quarterfinals against St. John’s, although exact seeding is still up in the air.
As for this game, Marquette started out with a 4-0 lead out of the gate and as a result, they never trailed. That doesn’t mean that the game wasn’t in doubt though, and it was just 12-8 at the end of the first quarter. MU immediately extended the margin to nine at the start of the second quarter, and a little 6-0 burst in the middle-ish of the period put the Golden Eagles up 29-14. That seems like a big lead with 2:34 to go before halftime, especially at the pace Xavier was scoring at, but MU would not score again in the half and so it was an 11 point game at the break.
MU got the lead back to 15 to start the third, but an 8-0 run by the Musketeers more than cut that in half by the midway point. The Golden Eagles kept on coming, getting it back to double digits, but they just could not quite push things over into a true blowout scenario. Part of that is those turnovers, as seven of MU’s giveaways came in the third quarter.
The game was still in doubt at the eight minute mark of the fourth quarter, after a Taylor Smith bucket pulled Xavier within seven, 45-38. This is one of those “it took Xavier 32 minutes to score 38 points, they can’t possibly overcome a seven point lead in just eight minutes, right?” situations but also a “hey, if they hit two three-pointers on opposite sides of one of the plentiful Marquette turnovers, this is a one point game” thing. Seemingly a large enough gap to be safe if MU can keep making plays, but very much in doubt because MU hadn’t been making enough plays all game long.
A simple 5-0 Marquette burst — a three-pointer from Emily La Chapell and a pair of freebies from Jordan King — did an awful lot of work for the Golden Eagles. It nudged the lead back up to 12 and it happened while Marquette kept Xavier off the scoreboard for over two minutes. That combination was huge for the Golden Eagles. Xavier did manage to pull within eight, 54-46, but there was just 2:27 to go and then La Chapell banged home a triple on MU’s ensuing possession to pretty much end all doubt about what was happening.
I’m not doing a good enough job pointing out how much the reason for the win is Marquette’s defense. The offense did enough to win because MU held Xavier to just 36% shooting in the game, including an ohfer on seven attempts from long distance. The Golden Eagles also provoked 18 turnovers from the Musketeers, and getting a turnover on 27% of possession is really great…. It’s just that it gets overlooked a liiiiiiitle bit when you’re coughing it up 32% of the time yourself.
Jordan King led all scorers in this game as Marquette limited Xavier to no double digit scorers in the entire contest. King had 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting, and she added four assists and three steals…. While also being responsible for eight of MU’s 22 turnovers. Liza Karlen had a big day with 15 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and three steals, while Chloe Marotta just barely missed a double-double on 12 points, nine rebounds, six assists, and a steal. Marotta also coughed it up six times as Xavier did a pretty good job frustrating MU’s two biggest regular contributors into mistakes.
How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and FloSports?
Up Next: All that remains is the regular season finale for the Golden Eagles. On Monday, they’ll be back at home for one last regular season contest, and they’ll be hosting DePaul. Tipoff is set for 8pm Central time, and the late start is because FS1 has picked up the broadcast. The Blue Demons are 15-15 on the year and just 8-11 in Big East play and they have lost four of their last six…… but also they pushed #4 Connecticut to the final minute of a 72-69 loss at Wintrust Arena on Saturday afternoon.