On Wednesday night, Marquette women’s basketball let a road win fumble out of their hands in the fourth quarter for the third time in Big East play. This has dropped the Golden Eagles to 5-5 in league play, and they’re just 4-5 since opening the 2023-24 campaign with 12 straight victories.
It’s, uh, not what you want.
The drop to 5-5 overall in the league meant something relative to the standings and Saturday’s game, too. If the conference tournament started on Friday, 5-5 Marquette would be the #6 seed and playing #11 Xavier in the first round, while 5-4 Providence, Saturday’s opponent, would be the #5 seed and skipping ahead to the quarterfinal round. That’s not nothing, and quite honestly, it wouldn’t be particularly useful to the Golden Eagles and their NET rankings to play a sub-300 Xavier squad again.
Saturday gives Marquette an immediate chance to jump themselves back into the top five, sliding to 6-5 and dropping the Friars to 5-5. It also gives the Golden Eagles a chance to exorcise the ghosts of how they went about losing to St. John’s, Villanova, and Creighton on the road already this season. MU is still very much in contention for an NCAA tournament bid this season, but taking their first sub-100 NET loss of the year in 11 attempts wouldn’t do a lot of good in making that happen.
With those road trips against four of the five teams in the conference ahead of them in the standings in the rear view mirror, the schedule quite obviously plays to Marquette’s benefit between now and the end of the regular season. The task at hand is taking advantage of that benefit and starting to stack up wins.
We do have to mention the shot to the face that Liza Karlen took very late in the game against Creighton on Wednesday. Karlen walked off pretty quickly after it happened, but she was holding her neck as she walked off. On top of that, there was a not insignificant amount of blood flowing out of her nose before the training staff got it slowed and jammed a wad of cotton in her nostril. I didn’t truly see anything live or on replay that made me immediately say “oh, she’s definitely not playing on Saturday.” However, I also wouldn’t be surprised to find out come noon on Saturday that Karlen either A) has a neck strain that will prevent her from playing or B) has a broken nose that will prevent her from playing.
Stat Watch: Jordan King needs 13 points to tie and 14 points to pass Angel Robinson for the 8th most points in program history.
Stat Watch #2: Liza Karlen needs 14 points to tie and 15 points to pass Lori Goerlitz for the 28th most points in program history. 17 points will pass Heidi Bowman for 27th most.
Stat Watch #3: Liza Karlen needs seven rebounds to tie and eight to pass Danielle Kamm for the 15th most rebounds in program history.
Stat Watch #4: Jordan King needs three assists to tie and four to pass Lori Goerlitz for the 4th most assists in program history.
Stat Watch #5: Jordan King needs two field goals to tie and three to pass Erika Davenport for the 7th most made field goals in program history. She needs eight to pass Kristen Maskala for 6th most.
Big East Game #11: at Providence Friars (11-11, 5-4 Big East)
Marquette is 24-6 all time against Providence. After narrowly escaping Alumni Hall even though they were leading by 20 last season, the Golden Eagles have now won 13 straight games against the Friars. This will be the only meeting between these two teams in the regular season due to the shift to an 18 game league schedule.
Providence went with the yo-yo method for their 5-4 mark in Big East action so far this season. They won their first two games, including a road victory in the opener against a Seton Hall team that was earning top 25 votes. That was followed up with four straight losses, although the league kind of booked them into that with road games against Connecticut and Creighton back-to-back. Since giving up a bucket with four seconds left to Georgetown’s Kelsey Ransom for a 73-71 loss at home to the Hoyas, PC has won three straight, including going on the road against both Butler and Xavier and downing Villanova in overtime at home. See what you can accomplish when you limit Lucy Olsen to only 18 points on 16 shots??
Part of their turnaround in the last three games has to be attributed to the return of Grace Efosa to the lineup. She missed 11 games earlier this season and made her return to the lineup in the UConn game. Since then, the 5’11” guard from Massachusetts is averaging 15.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 51% from the field. Efosa is the reigning Big East Player of the Week after hanging 29 points on Villanova in the Friars’ overtime victory. She primarily does her work going at the rim, as she’s attempting less than two three-pointers per game and only connecting 30% of the time this season.
While Efosa is infusing all sorts of good things to the lineup, Olivia Olsen is still the leading scorer on the team at 14.6 per game. She’s doing that entirely through the post, as she’s just 0.6 rebounds per game short of averaging a double-double this season. Olsen is top 200 in the country in rebounding rate on both ends of the floor, so the Golden Eagles are going to have to devote a body to blocking her out no matter what.
Providence isn’t going to try to shoot a lot of three-pointers as a team, but they’ve got a couple of snipers to watch out for. Brynn Farrell is riding her 41% long range shooting on nearly three attempts per game to averaging nearly 11 points per game, while Marta Morales is leading the squad in attempts per game (3.0) while hitting 36.5% of the time. A lot of the defensive effort is going to have to be expended defending the lane, but that can’t come at the cost of leaving Farrell and Morales open and comfortable on the outside. If Kylee Sheppard wants to shoot threes, I’d vote that Marquette let her do that until she makes one. She averages 2.5 attempts per game but only hits one out of five so far this season.