Whenever the second-best team in the nation comes to town, other teams want to show they can compete with the high level of talent. The score may not have indicated it, but the Marquette women’s basketball team put up a fight against No. 2/3 Connecticut in its 85-51 loss.
Connecticut came out fast, gaining an 11-0 lead, and the pace never let up. By the 12-minute mark of the first half, the Huskies were up 21-3. Despite the 18 point deficit, Marquette held Connecticut to just one three-pointer by the end of the half and held UConn to 5-for-14 for the game. The Huskies still maintained a comfortable 54-19 halftime lead.
Coach Geno Auriemma said when Connecticut comes out that fast, it’s a tough team to beat.
“I thought ball movement was great for that first 20 minutes,” Auriemma said. “We got the exact shot we wanted to get almost every time down the floor.”
Coach Terri Mitchell didn’t want the team to get discouraged after the first half and wanted to see the Golden Eagles push back.
“UConn’s the best. They jumped all over us,” Mitchell said. “We were back on our heels. All I asked them at halftime was to show fight. Just show some fight, remember who you are, and remember there are other games to be played.”
Marquette’s improvement was immediate in the second half. The Golden Eagles shot 42.3 percent from the floor, up from 26.9 percent in the first half. Connecticut’s shooting dropped from 56.4 percent to 43.3 percent. Kalenna Mosqueda-Lewis, who had 17 points in the first half, was limited to just seven in the second. But the most telling stat of the second half was Marquette outscoring of Connecticut 32-31.
“We were pleased with how we responded to everything,” Simmons said. “But I think our focus is going to be about how we start games, and as Terri likes to say, to throw the first punch. We want our defense to start our offense.”
Mitchell said she knew Connecticut was going to be a tough opponent and used the game as a way to gauge where the team is heading in the Big East. Instead of dwelling on where things went wrong, she wants the team to focus on what went well and where it can improve.
“We have a measuring stick here,” Mitchell said. “We’re going to play them again at their place, which is going to be that much more difficult. Can we find a way to get better by the time we play them the second time?”
Simmons showed improvement. She dropped 19, more than double her season average of 9.3.
“In the locker room, we talk about what we need to do, setting goals for ourselves and actually setting consequences for not achieving things,” Simmons said. “I think that gave us more incentive to work harder on defense, getting boards or attacking hard on offense.”
Mitchell pointed out that sometimes the team can learn more from a loss than from a win, and that’s what she hopes the team can take away from this game against Connecticut.
“It’s a process,” Mitchell said. “If you only focus on results, you can win a game and not get better. You can lose a game and get better. So our focus is process, effort and toughness, and managing your emotions.”