Much of the Marquette women’s basketball team’s success this year has come from an inside-out approach to each contest. The Golden Eagles recognized early in the 2011-’12 season that their strength would be size and height and that their gameplan had to flow through the play of their forwards.
Visiting No. 3 Connecticut handed Marquette its fifth Big East loss in a row in an 85-45 rout Saturday, and aside from utilizing a clear distinction in talent and depth, the Huskies were able to use their stingy defense to shut down the Golden Eagles’ inside play early and throw off their shooting for the remainder of the contest.
Sophomore forward Katherine Plouffe, the team’s leading scorer began the game on the bench, with 6-foot-5 freshman forward Chelsie Butler starting in her place. Plouffe said her start had more to do with a perceived size matchup with Connecticut’s own 6-foot-5 sophomore forward Stefanie Dolson.
After Connecticut started the game on a 6-0 run, Plouffe returned to the floor and the Golden Eagles were able to tie the score two possessions later. Dolson only finished with six minutes of playing time as the Huskies moved to a five guard set using the dynamics of its backcourt players to counter the one-dimensional size advantage of the Golden Eagles.
The Golden Eagles shot only 18.8 percent in the first 20 minutes but were able to stay within striking distance, facing a 34-21 halftime deficit.
While in the short term, the game appeared to be within reach, the disruptions in the Golden Eagle’s basic game plan became evident in the second half as Connecticut posted run after run, while Marquette had difficulty stringing consecutive baskets together.
Connecticut freshman guard Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said coach Geno Auriemma had told the team about Marquette’s inside tendencies and had planned to overpower the Golden Eagles with guard play.
“He told us that Marquette’s game was to go inside most of the time and he was right,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “Plouffe and all of their forwards were pretty good, but it just so happened that we were able to go to a five guard set and help each other out.”
Coach Terri Mitchell said Connecticut’s versatility made it tough for her team to establish any kind of consistency in the paint which in turn lead to an overall struggle in shot selection and converting field goals.
“When they had those five guards out there we kept talking about taking advantage of the high-low, and they were denying us and making it difficult.” Mitchell said. “You would think you have an advantage down low, but they went at us, and Chelsie was two for eight and (Katherine Plouffe) was four for 16, and their ball pressure made it tough for us to get it inside.”
Plouffe forced shot after shot up under the basket, and while she was able to get some open looks she had a hard time converting most of the time. She finished with 16 points to lead the team.
Auriemma said he didn’t know how much his team had done to impact Plouffe’s game, but credited most of her struggles to pressure and a lack of support from her teammates.
“I don’t know how much we did to shut her down,” Auriemma said. “Marquette missed a lot of easy shots around the basket, and I don’t know how much we had to do with that. But whenever there’s a lot of pressure on one player to score a large amount of points and she knows that we are going to key on her, she needs help from the rest of the team and they just didn’t have that. It made it easier for us to contain her.”