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RV Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: vs Butler

The Golden Eagles have 40 minutes to reset themselves after throwing away a win and coming out lifeless in the second half against UConn in back to back games.

Connecticut v Butler Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Okay, so.

The last time Marquette women’s basketball played UConn, the devastation from the blowout loss dragged into the next game, and MU lost a close contest with St. John’s in Queens. That compounded the first loss of the season into two straight.

This time, Marquette went into Tuesday night’s game against the Huskies following a loss, yet once again a close contest on the road. After a feisty first 15 minutes or so, Marquette fell apart and never recovered, much like what happened the first time that they faced Connecticut this season.

But now, MU’s on the two game skid after losing to UConn. They can not afford to let this turn into a three game losing streak, not after going 3-4 since starting the year 12-0. Not with the second worst team in the Big East coming up next on the slate. Not with the game coming at home. Not with a road contest with a ranked Creighton team coming up following Saturday’s game.

A misstep against Butler on Saturday turns two losses into three, creates the chance of turning two losses into four — winning at Sokol Arena in Omaha is hard — and quite honestly, puts Marquette’s chances of an NCAA tournament bid very much at risk. When ESPN’s Charlie Creme updated his bracket before Tuesday’s loss to UConn, he had MU as a #7 seed. Her Hoop Stats updated late on Wednesday night, long after the loss, and Megan Gauer has MU as a #6 seed. Losing to UConn, even by a big margin, is a blip on the radar for the NCAA tournament. Losing to a sub-100 NET team like Butler, is definitely not a blip.

But that doesn’t have to happen. Marquette just has to shake off their second two-game skid in the past seven games and not let what happened at the Al on Tuesday bother them. Get back on a positive track by taking care of business with a win, and then focus on the season sweep of the Bluejays after that.

Stat Watch: Jordan King needs 29 points to tie and 30 points to pass Angel Robinson for the 8th most points in Marquette history.

Stat Watch #2: Liza Karlen needs eight points to tie and nine points to pass Sarina Simmons for the 31st most points in Marquette history. She also needs 15 to pass Danielle Kamm for 30th place.

Stat Watch #3: Jordan King needs two made field goals to tie and three to pass Lisa Oldenburg for the 8th most made FGs in program history. She needs nine to pass Erika Davenport for 7th place, and 14 to pass Kristen Maskala for 6th place.

Big East Game #9: vs Butler Bulldogs (9-10, 1-7 Big East)

Date: Saturday, January 27, 2024
Time: 4pm Central, approximately 2 hours after the men’s game ends at Fiserv, hint hint
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloHoops ($) or Women’s Sports Network (free)
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Bluesky Updates: @AnonymousEagle

Marquette is 20-9 all time against Butler. The first ever meeting was in 1986, and like all of the first four, the Bulldogs came away victorious. Since 1991, Marquette has lost just five times and comes into this one on a seven game winning streak against Butler after sneaking out of Indianapolis with a 65-63 win in the second game last season.

Well, I have to issue a mea culpa to a certain degree here. Back in my Big East women’s basketball whiparound before league play got started in earnest, I praised Butler for standing at 8-4 overall after having a 5-7 record at the same point a year earlier. Then, I wrapped up their blurb with this:

They’re four wins away from surpassing their total from last year, [head coach Austin] Parkinson’s first in charge, and they need seven in league play to do better than their 6-14 mark a year ago.

WELLLLLLLLLLL, they’ve won just one game since I wrote that. Even worse, the win was 1) in their most recent game on Wednesday night and 2) against Xavier, the only team in the league that was worse than Butler in the NET coming into the game..... and that’s a #150 to #323 contest as of Thursday morning. Saturday afternoon is the midway point of the 18 game league slate for the Bulldogs, and, well, I don’t think they’re getting to six wins this season. Not with both games against Marquette and a home date with Creighton still to go.

At least Wednesday was a road win? That’s something.

The #1 thing that Marquette has to worry about on Saturday is Butler’s three-point shooting. They’re #13 in the country in team shooting percentage, draining over 37% of their attempts. The Bulldogs have four rotation players hitting at least 40% this season, led by top scorer Caroline Strande at 53%. Jordan Meulemans and Rachel Kent are the two most dangerous shooters, as they both put up more than five per game (Kent is north of six tries a game) and they shoot 43% and 40% respectively. Butler knows it’s a strength of theirs, and they lean into it. Nearly 37% of their shots come from behind the arc, and that’s the 40th largest ratio in the country. Her Hoop Stats tracks percentage of points from twos, threes, and free throws, and Butler is #4 in the country in points derived from triples, with over 40% of their output coming from those shots.

With that in mind, Butler’s not very good scoring it from anywhere else. They rank #207 in the country in two-point shooting percentage and #213 in free throw percentage. That last one is less of a problem for them because they’re one of the 30 worst teams in the country at getting to the line, but that’s largely connected to “We’re shooting all of these three-pointers and our opponents aren’t stupid.” They don’t have anyone who’s shooting twos openly poorly, at least not anyone who’s shooting it regularly. The three players who are averaging at least three attempts per game inside the arc all shoot in between 43% and 47%. It’s not great, but it’s not objectively bad or anything. If you can make them ineffective on three-pointers, they’re going to struggle to find other ways to score, pure and simple.

Marquette should be able to punish the Bulldogs on the glass. They’re nearing bottom 100 in the country in offensive rebounding rate, although that might just be a choice to get back on defense by the coaching staff. On the other end, they’re ranked just #156 in the country at ending possessions. The Golden Eagles are not an elite offensive rebounding team this season, but with their three-point pop, they haven’t needed to be. Between Liza Karlen, Frannie Hottinger, and Skylar Forbes, they have the tools to get after it if Butler’s going to struggle on the defensive glass and this is a game that you’re going to want to see max effort from MU.