2023 Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament
#1 Connecticut Huskies (27-5, 18-2 Big East) vs #5 Marquette Golden Eagles (21-9, 13-7 Big East)
Date: Sunday, March 5, 2023
Time: 2pm Central
Location: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut
Television: FS1, with Matt Schumacker, Kim Adams, and Meghan Caffrey calling the action
Streaming: FoxSports.com/live or the Fox Sports app
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Season Series: 1-1 with each team winning at home
All-Time Series: UConn leads 16-1, but yes, the one was the most recent encounter.
Marquette reaches the Big East semifinals by way of a 57-47 victory over St. John’s on Saturday afternoon. Jordan King, Chloe Marotta, and Liza Karlen all had big games for the Golden Eagles, as they combined to score 50 of MU’s 57 points. This is the seventh consecutive year that Marquette has reached at least the semifinals of the conference tournament, and this time they had to do it by was of an upset in the quarterfinals. Yes, St. John’s and Marquette were tied for fourth place, but officially, MU was the #5 seed so it is a by the seed line upset.
Connecticut finds themselves in the semifinals after a 69-39 victory over #8 seed Georgetown in the quarterfinals. Technically speaking, it is a come from behind victory for the Huskies, as Georgetown scored first and did hold a 4-2 lead as well. UConn outscored the Hoyas 13-4 the rest of the way in the first quarter and then dropped an 18-4 second quarter on them for a 35-12 halftime advantage.... and then threw 26 points in during the third just to get the point across.
There are two important things to consider for this Marquette/UConn game. The first is a simple one. With the exception of a 9-0 run to start the game between the two sides at Gampel Pavilion back on New Year’s Eve, Marquette has beaten Connecticut 107-104 in aggregate this season. The Golden Eagles obviously picked up the 59-52 win in Milwaukee for the program’s first ever defeat of the Huskies, and the remaining 36:45 of the game in The Nutmeg State was just 52-48 favoring the home team. The point of the story is thus: MU head coach Megan Duffy and her staff have a game plan to beat the Huskies and it works. There’s over 76 minutes of evidence to prove it works. All they have to do is execute that game plan for another 40 minutes, and they’re in the Big East title game for the sixth time in seven seasons. No, it’s not a coincidence that the one time in the last seven seasons that MU didn’t reach the title game was because they lost to UConn in the semifinals last year.
The other thing is a potential reason why the first thing doesn’t matter any more. On Saturday, UConn sophomore guard Azzi Fudd played in her 10th game of the season, her first game since January 15th, and just her third game since December 4th. She missed time in December with a knee injury, and after coming back for two games, the UConn staff shut her down because the only thing that was going to fix her knee was rest. Fudd didn’t play the rest of the year, which includes the loss in Milwaukee and the loss at home to St. John’s. Fudd chipped in 10 points, two rebounds, four assists, and a steal in 16 minutes of action against the Hoyas and no, she didn’t really make a difference for them in a 30 point win. But she did get her feet wet, and now Marquette’s game plan that worked really well for over 76 minutes is slightly wrong because they didn’t face Fudd in either of the first two meetings. In her 10 games this season, Fudd is averaging 17.1 points, 1.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 42% from long range. It’s the three-point shooting that’s of particular note to me, as UConn has just one player — Lou Lopez Senechal — who has attempted more than 100 triples this season. If Fudd’s presence on the court, even limited as she gets back to 100% playing shape, helps stretch the defense just a little bit, that makes both Senechal and Nika Muhl much more dangerous shooters.
The winner of this game will advance to Monday night’s championship game. The opponent there will be either #2 Villanova or #3 Creighton, as both teams had to fend off serious challenges from DePaul and Seton Hall respectively in their quarterfinal games before finally getting the wins to advance.