Despite receiving less attention this season because they aren't ranked, the Marquette Golden Eagles (16-4, 13-3 Big East) have the lead over the No. 24 DePaul Blue Demons (13-5, 10-3 Big East) for second place in the Big East by a game and a half.
Marquette and DePaul would both be 8-seeds in the NCAA Tournament if ESPN’s Charlie Creme was deciding and the season ended today.
UConn is back in the Big East this year and, unsurprisingly, it is in first place in the conference and seeks to end the four-year streak of either Marquette or DePaul winning the Big East Tournament. The Golden Eagles and Blue Demons have been the two teams featured in the championship game in each of those four seasons, with the Blue Demons defeating the Golden Eagles 88-74 in the final last year.
While the teams’ 5 p.m. ET matchup on Wednesday may not hold the same significance it has in recent years when Marquette and DePaul were the two best teams in the conference, it is still a huge rivalry game and DePaul wants to win to inch closer to clinching at least the 3-seed in the Big East and avoid playing UConn in the semifinals.
Ready to roll the ball out and face longtime rival Marquette on Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m.— DePaul Women's Basketball (@DePaulWBBHoops) February 24, 2021
Maquette has won four in a row since an 87-82 loss to DePaul on Feb. 7 and three of those wins were blowouts. The other was by eight points over a good Villanova team.
DePaul, on the other hand, is coming off a crushing Saturday loss to Creighton that dropped it five spots in the rankings.
The first matchup between the teams was close throughout; the first quarter margin of three in favor of DePaul was the largest margin of any frame and Marquette won the second quarter. Deja Chuch and Sonya Morris of DePaul and Jordan King and Lauren Van Kleunen of Marquette all scored over 20 points.
The Golden Eagles are led by senior guard Selena Lott’s 15 points per game, while Van Kleunen, a redshirt senior forward who averages 13, and sophomore forward Camryn Taylor (11.2) join her in double figures. All three players average over five rebounds with Taylor leading the team at 6.9. Lott has also eclipsed the 100-assist mark for the season and averages 5.2 to go along with 2 steals per game. King, a sophomore guard, averages 9.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Junior forward Chloe Marotta rounds out Marquette’s starting lineup with 8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.9 helpers.
Morris, a junior guard, is the top scorer for the Blue Demons with 18.9 points per game, while junior guard Lexi Held (16.2), senior guard Dee Bekelja (14.3) and Church, a senior guard with 12.7 points per game, all average double figures as well. Freshman guard Darrione Rogers (team leading 5.6 rebounds per game) and sophomore forward Jorie Allen aren’t far behind with 9.4 and 9.3 points, respectively. Held leads the squad with averages of 4.1 assists and 3.3 steals.
DePaul takes 27.4 threes per game compared to 13.7 for Marquette, so that will be an interesting aspect of the game to keep and eye on.
The Golden Eagles (16-4, 13-3 BIG EAST) will look to win their fifth straight game on Wednesday night at No. 24/23 DePaul.— Marquette WBB (@MarquetteWBB) February 23, 2021
An MU victory would clinch the No. 2 seed in next week's BIG EAST tournament.
Marquette Golden Eagles (16-4, 13-3 Big East) vs. No. 24 DePaul Blue Demons (13-5, 10-3 Big East)
When: Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 5 p.m. ET
Where: Wintrust Arena in Chicago, IL
How to watch/listen: FLOHOOPS or BEDN (DePaul)
Key to the matchup: DePaul taking care of the ball. We know the Blue Demons force a lot of turnovers (22.5 per game). But the key for them will be coupling that with keeping the turnovers they commit to a minimum. Turnover margin is one of the few areas where DePaul has an advantage over Marquette and it’s the best thing it has going for it. The Golden Eagles, on the other hand, have a solid defense and that will be the key for them. They hold opponents 61.3 points per game, 38.9 percent shooting from the field and 29.5 percent shooting from 3-point range. They force 16.3 turnovers per game, but may need to increase that number in order to defeat DePaul. The Blue Demons are tied for 96th in the country in least turnovers committed (14.7 per contest) and will need a big advantage in turnover margin, not just turnovers forced, in order to defeat the Golden Eagles, who are stronger in a lot of areas.
Reason to watch: This is a huge rivalry and the two teams are second and third in the Big East. Villanova and Seton Hall can both still catch DePaul and push the Blue Demons into the 4- or 5-seed in the Big East Tournament, which could force them to play UConn prior to the championship round.