If you’re going to beat UConn women’s basketball, you’ve got to play a great game on your side, do a heck of a job taking the Huskies out of their game, and then maybe catch some luck along the way for good measure.
None of those three things came through for Marquette women’s basketball on Sunday afternoon in the Big East tournament semifinals, as the top seeded Huskies grabbed ahold of the lead early and ran off with an 81-52 victory. That outcome sends Connecticut onwards to Monday night’s championship game and leaves the Golden Eagles waiting for Selection Sunday seven days from now.
UConn opened up the game with a 9-2 run, not too far off from the 9-0 start at Gampel Pavilion in the regular season. Marquette was able to stay within shouting distance of the Huskies in that one, and I presume that Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma had made his charges well aware of that fact leading into this game. Marquette would send some shockwaves into that UConn lead over the next few minutes, but a 7-3 edge over the final three minutes and change of the quarter had the Huskies up 20-12 after 10 minutes, expanding their lead from that early run by one point.
The first five points of the second frame went towards UConn as they expanded their lead to 13 points. The Golden Eagles did have an answer in them, and a layup from Liza Karlen cut the margin to just five points, 25-20, with 4:45 before halftime. It’s important to point this out to understand exactly how much Marquette got run over by the end of the game.
To wit: At the half, UConn was up 37-22. That’s a 12-2 run for UConn, and that is not good for Marquette.
Emily La Chapell scored first out of the locker room, and then UConn answered that with a 6-0 run for a 43-24 lead. Yep. You get where this is going. The Huskies outscored Marquette 24-14 in the third to push the lead to 25 at the 75% marker, and it was only that close because Kenzie Hare hit a three with eight seconds left.
One of the things working against Marquette in this game was Chloe Marotta’s foul trouble. She played just 15 seconds in the second quarter as head coach Megan Duffy tried to keep her on the bench after two early fouls, but had to give it a shot to keep the game together. It didn’t work, as you can tell, and while Marotta played almost every other minute of the game, she was held to just 1-for-9 shooting and just two points. Eight rebounds, but just two points.
UConn also took Jordan King completely out of the game, just not in the sitting on the bench way. MU’s senior guard went 2-for-15 in this one, and that is very not good, not in a game where you need big performances from your stars and a little bit of help from your other rotation players.
There’s an argument here that this is just fully powered UConn, as they had Azzi Fudd and Caroline Ducharme in the lineup. Neither woman played in either of the first two meetings of the two teams, so merely getting 21 minutes from Fudd and 13 from Ducharme helped UConn out as far as getting the rest of their rotation a little extra rest. But the pair combined for just six points and four rebounds. UConn beat Marquette with the players that MU mostly held even with in the two regular season games.
How about some highlights, such as they are, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and Fox Sports?
Up Next: Selection Sunday is next, and it might be a tense week for Marquette. Beating St. John’s in the quarterfinals gave them seven top 75 victories this season, and you’d like to think that wins over UConn, Texas, and Gonzaga should carry them over the top… but I’m not the one making these decisions.