Golden Eagles need to buckle down on ‘D’

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

After allowing an average of 88.5 points in its last two games, the Marquette women’s basketball team needs to get back on the right track defensively.

The Golden Eagles fell to Syracuse 92-79 in their Big East opener and lost 85-51 to No. 2 Connecticut on Saturday.

Despite Marquette outscoring the powerhouse Huskies in the second half, 32-31, the team fell behind early, allowing Connecticut to jump out to a 54-19 halftime advantage.

“We were pleased with how we responded to everything, but I think our focus is going to be this week how we start games and really build on that,” said senior forward Sarina Simmons, who netted 19 points Saturday. “We want to be the aggressors and have our defense start our offense and get in the rhythm of the game.”

Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma was pleased with how his team attacked Marquette early and often, something the Golden Eagles will have to prevent as they get deeper into conference play.

“We got the exact shot we wanted to get most every time down the floor,” Auriemma said. “It’s been a while since we’ve come out with that kind of focus when we start our games. It was great to see.”

Prior to the Syracuse defeat, the Golden Eagles (0-2 Big East) had won four straight games, surrendering an average of just 63 points per contest in that stretch.

Rebounding and paint defense have been significant factors for Marquette’s recent defensive lapses; the Huskies grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and had 42 points in the paint, while Syracuse snatched 22 offensive boards and tallied 36 points in the paint.

“I hope we get back to rebounding the basketball,” Marquette coach Terri Mitchell said. “I hope we continue to limit our turnovers and find ways to defend and make it tough.”

Simmons said the team has enhanced some parts of its game since November but also said that in order to compete with the higher echelon teams, it needs to be clicking on all cylinders.

“We’re always looking to improve,” Simmons said. “We know that we’re doing better, but we haven’t arrived. It’s all about wanting to get better.”

The Golden Eagles hope a matchup at Seton Hall tonight will get them back to where they would like to be defensively. The Pirates have scored 70 or more points just once in their 16 games this season, but Mitchell said every Big East game must be approached carefully.

“It’s not easy,” Mitchell said. “It’s never easy on the road. Seton Hall is going to see the same film, see our weaknesses, come after them, and we have to be ready to stand up to that.

“We’re just going to find ways to get better. If you look at Connecticut and say, ‘Hey, this is what they’re doing and this is how we can grow,’ and take that into Tuesday, then that’s our focus right now.”

Simmons said she wants the Golden Eagles to get the elusive first conference victory out of the way, but she realizes it will require them to buckle down on defense.

“We’re using Syracuse and UConn as our lessons going into Seton Hall,” Simmons said. “We’re setting higher goals for ourselves, and we just want to build momentum. We need to win somewhere, and we’re hoping (tonight) will be our start.”

Tonight’s game tips off at 6 p.m. Seton Hall enters the game 2-1 in Big East action, coming off a 72-46 loss at St. John’s. Marquette will try to avoid suffering its second three-game losing streak of the season.

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