When Marquette women’s basketball started off Sunday afternoon’s game against #15 Connecticut by prompting a turnover from Paige Bueckers and then Liza Karlen draining a three on the other end, I said, hmm, interesting.
When another UConn turnover combined with Jordan King getting fouled shooting a three-pointer to get #18 Marquette out to a 10-0 lead at the XL Center, I quoted Captain Raymond Holt and said “HOT DAMN!”
When Marquette answered UConn cutting that 10-0 lead to a four point margin at 17-13 by scoring the next four points, including a transition bucket by Kenzie Hare, and going up 21-13, I said “They’re responding to UConn waking up after head coach Geno Auriemma called timeout, we’re in for a good game now.”
We were not.
Marquette did not score again in the quarter, giving up a 13-0 run to end the frame that turned into a 15-0 run on a Bueckers bucket on the other side of the break..... that turned into a 24-2 run with 7:23 left in the second. UConn led, 37-23, and they were not done decimating Marquette, eventually picking up the 95-64 win. It is the first loss of the season for Marquette, ending their program record run of wins to start the season at 12, and dropping their Big East record to 1-1 after opening with contests against the two projected best teams in the league.
There were two big problems for me in the game — yes, as the guy who said coming in that this was a house money game for Marquette, great if they win, largely inconsequential if they lose — with the first being that the game flipped after Auriemma called timeout in the wake of the 10-0 start. It’s not that UConn got their act together after the pause, it’s that it looked like the two teams changed video game controllers and one of them was broken. Everything was going great for Marquette to start the game, and nothing was going right for UConn.... and then out of the timeout, even with MU head coach Megan Duffy getting a chance to warn her team that the Huskies are going to come out hot, it was the other way around. UConn was note perfect, and Marquette could barely figure out how to walk straight.
The second is how Marquette answered the bell after halftime, or rather, how they did not answer the bell. UConn ended the first half on a 40-15 run to take a 17 point lead into intermission. Whatever Marquette was doing for the last 12 minutes was not working on either end of the floor. MU’s immediate response to this was to open the second half with a three-pointer from Kenzie Hare.... and then give up six straight to the Huskies. Rose Nkumu trimmed the margin to 19 on a bucket in the paint with 7:29 left in the third..... and then Marquette didn’t get another field goal until there were just 64 seconds left. That was a three from Hare, and it pulled the margin back under 30, 76-47.
Marquette’s response to getting shelled for the final 12 minutes of the first half was to give up a 14-1 run. To lose the third quarter 27-11. To lose the first 11:30 of the second half by a margin of 31-13.
Is part of that “UConn good”? Sure, and there’s not much you can do about that part. Is part of that “Auriemma lit a fire under them after that 10-0 start”? Sure, of course, but Megan Duffy’s allowed to coach and motivate her team as well, and the best case scenario is that Duffy doesn’t know how to reach her team and prepare them for UConn reacting to seeing their own blood. That’s the best case scenario for what we saw here, and think about what that means for the worst case scenario.
Up Next: Marquette will be back on the road in an attempt to bounce back from this one, although it’s unclear as to whether or not MU is returning to Milwaukee in between games. The next one is just down the road a bit from Hartford, as the Golden Eagles will visit St. John’s on Wednesday night. Tipoff on FloSports on that one is scheduled for 6pm Central time. The Red Storm are 7-7 overall and 1-1 in Big East play after a 67-56 loss to #21 Creighton on Saturday evening snapped a three game winning streak.