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#22 Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: at Villanova

The Golden Eagles tangle with a squad in the top half of the Big East standings, and on the road to boot.

Big East Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

This screams “trap game.”

Marquette women’s basketball has bounced back from 1) getting squished by UConn and 2) fumbling away a chance to beat St. John’s by winning their next three games. They didn’t just win those three, they won in commanding fashion:

  • A 33-5 run to take command against Xavier and they never looked back.
  • Pounding Seton Hall 42-23 after halftime for a 21 point win.
  • A 20-2 run in the first quarter to jump all over DePaul, followed by allowing just one Blue Demons field goal in the second quarter.

You can argue that the Xavier performance isn’t that impressive because of what the Musketeers have been this season, but you can’t do that with the other two. Seton Hall has just barely slipped out of the top 50 of the NET as of Tuesday morning when I write this part, and DePaul’s a top 100 squad. Marquette has handled their business in an incredibly effective manner after that two game skid, and they did it without Frannie Hottinger on the road against the Pirates for reasons that remain a complete mystery since she played 17 minutes off the bench against the Blue Demons.

Marquette takes that three game winning streak to The Finn on Wednesday night, and while the Wildcats aren’t what they have been the last few years (we’ll get to it), they’re still a team with an eye on trying to get to the NCAA tournament, just like Seton Hall was when MU went to South Orange. This is an important game on Marquette’s own path to the NCAA tournament with Villanova in the top 50 of the NET, and there are but only so many of those opportunities left on the schedule for the Golden Eagles.

But.

After this game, Marquette gets five days off. After that, they host UConn. Marquette beat the Huskies at the McGuire Center last year. Yes, UConn blew MU’s doors off at the XL Center earlier this season, but this is a second swing at them and it’s in Milwaukee. That’s a big one.... and between that and the time off over the weekend, that’s how you get to a big red flashing alarm light and a siren that blares “TRAP GAME” at you.

Marquette can not let that happen. Wednesday night’s visit to the Main Line is a winnable game for them, but it’s also a loseable game if they don’t bring the right “every game is important” mindset to the proceedings. This game is just as valuable to Villanova, perhaps more so as they have just one NET top 50 win right now, and that’s to #50 Richmond.

Losing to UConn earlier this season led to a second straight loss. The Golden Eagles can not let the looming threat of playing the Huskies again distract them from the task at hand and turn things into another skid.

Stat Watch: Jordan King needs eight points to tie and nine points to pass Lisa Oldenburg for the 9th most points in program history.

Stat Watch #2: It’s a little bit on the edge of possibility, but Jordan King needs 11 assists to tie and 12 to pass Lori Goerlitz for the 4th most in program history.

Stat Watch #3: Jordan King’s next made field goal will get her out of a tie with Christina Quaye for the 10th most in program history. She needs another five to pass Lauren Van Kleunen for 9th place and 12 to pass Lisa Oldenburg for 8th place.

Stat Watch #4: She still needs several more to catch Allazia Blockton in 15th place, but Kenzie Hare’s next made three-pointer will give her 100 for her career.

Big East Game #7: at Villanova Wildcats (11-5, 4-1 Big East)

Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2024
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Finneran Pavilion, Villanova, Pennsylvania
Streaming: FloHoops
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Bluesky Updates: @AnonymousEagle

Marquette is 17-14 all time against Villanova. The Wildcats have won four straight in the series after getting the season sweep last year, but the Golden Eagles have still won 10 of the last 15 meetings between the two teams dating back to December of 2016.

Villanova comes into Wednesday night on a five game winning streak which has really turned their season around. Back on December 16th, the Wildcats opened up Big East action with a 51-46 loss to St. John’s as part of a tripleheader of basketball at Madison Square Garden. Shouts to Penn State and Georgia Tech for getting a neutral site game there for some reason, as the other game was the SJU men vs Fordham. ANYWAY, the point of the story is that the loss to the Johnnies dropped Villanova to 6-5 on the year. They hadn’t taken any truly bad losses yet, but the loss to the Red Storm was also their third straight loss.

Things turned around next time out, as the Wildcats won by 14 at La Salle, and they’ve rattled off four straight Big East wins after that. This included an overtime win over Georgetown at home on January 10th that’s not going to go into the record books as a triumphant moment in Villanova history. They went into the fourth quarter up 40-33 and then scored just four points in the final frame of regulation, including absolutely none at all for the final 7:54. They had chances to win it in regulation because Georgetown tied the game with 2:55 to go but neither team could put another point on the board. That’s the kind of game it was: Going to overtime tied at 44. They were lucky to escape with a win, as the Hoyas tied it with 11 seconds to go and Bella Runyan committed a foul on the shot, but Mya Bembry missed the freebie..... and her own putback..... which was blocked by Runyan. And then Lucy Olsen split a pair of freebies with five seconds left, giving GU one final shot to win it, but VU forced a turnover. Yeesh.

Still, a win is a win, and last time out against Butler was much less exciting as Nova went up 18-4 out of the gate.

As I talked about in the Big East Whiparound, head coach Denise Dillon is running a version of the “We have Maddy Siegrist and you don’t” offense, but as you can tell from that 6-5 start, it’s not exactly working out as well as it did last year with Siegrist. Lucy Olsen is the only double digit scorer on the team, but she’s putting up 22.8 per night..... but it also takes her more than 20 shots per game on average to do that. No one else on the team attempts more than the 9.0 shots per game that Christina Dalce puts up. Olsen is connecting on less than 30% of her long range attempts even though Olsen fires off a team high more than five per game on average. I get it when you turn the keys over to a player like Maddy Siegrist and say “we’re going as far as you can take us.” I do not understand doing that with a player that is clearly not giving you the same thing and probably never was going to do that, all due respect to Lucy Olsen. Anyway: Disrupt the 5’9” Olsen, who also leads the team in assists, and you’ve disrupted Nova’s entire system.

Through everything that’s happened this season for the Wildcats, Her Hoop Stats still has them as a top 40 team overall and they are top 40 on both ends of the floor. This is kind of impressive, because they’re not doing anything particularly notable in terms of shooting on either end. About the best thing you can say about the Wildcats is that it’s bordering on impossible to get to the free throw line against them, where they rank #23 in the country in defensive free throw attempt rate. The defense overall has higher rankings than the offense, but no one’s quaking in their boots over the idea of facing the country’s 75th best effective field goal percentage defense, y’know?

Two things bear watching here. Villanova is bordering on being a bad defensive rebounding team, ranking #203 in the country in rate according to Her Hoop Stats. Marquette isn’t a great OR team, but they are top 100, and we know that Megan Duffy loves to see her team pulling that ball off the glass. This is a clear mismatch situation for the Golden Eagles, and crashing the offensive glass should be a priority in the game. If MU does that, it might help balance out Villanova’s ability to hold onto the ball on their end. VU has the fourth lowest turnover rate in the country, which is definitely helping them out on the efficiency end of things. Marquette isn’t an elite ballhawk defense, but they do generate turnovers more than 21% of the time, ranking just outside HHS’ top 100 there. If MU can’t generate easy possessions by way of runouts, they’re going to have to find other ways to score, and second chances is an obvious place to find those ways.