With a 7-9 Big East record and a 15-14 overall record for the season, the Marquette women’s basketball team failed to clinch a first round bye in the Big East Tournament this year.
The tournament, which starts Friday, will feature all fifteen teams in the conference. Despite not gaining the first round bye, the Golden Eagles will face the lowest ranked Pittsburgh Panthers on Friday.
In the only meeting of the season between the two clubs, Marquette notched a 74-65 victory in Pittsburgh on Jan. 19. Sophomore Lauren Tibbs led the Golden Eagles with 14 points and played 25 minutes, while junior Katherine Plouffe scored 13 points, grabbed nine rebounds and had eight assists. If Plouffe can have that kind of success against the Panthers, the Golden Eagles should not have a problem.
“We know that at the end of the day we have to go out there and play and fight,” sophomore Arlesia Morse said. “And if we fight like (assistant coach) Tyler (Summitt) always tells us, the scoreboard will take care of itself.”
Marquette is riding a three game winning streak coming into the tournament. The Golden Eagles defeated Providence and Georgetown on the road before beating Cincinnati on Senior Night Monday. All of these teams are seeded below the Golden Eagles, but Marquette has made it a point to focus on what’s ahead.
“I am just really excited (about) the way we finished out this season, winning three straight, two of them on the road,” coach Terri Mitchell said. “We understand, on Friday, everything is new. Everyone is going to have renewed hope, but at least we’re going in with some momentum.”
The Panthers are on a 36-game losing streak in Big East play, dating back to the 2010-2011 season. Pittsburgh relies on getting points in the paint, and the Golden Eagles can use their size to out-rebound the Panthers and block out second chance points.
“I think our fight is just incredible on both ends of the court,” Mitchell said. “We’re just understanding how important rebounding and defense are.”
If Marquette beats the Panthers, the team would face No. 7 seed DePaul. The Golden Eagles beat the Blue Demons 70-66 when DePaul came to the Al McGuire Center on Feb. 2. DePaul’s sophomore superstar Brittany Hrynko dropped 35 points on the Golden Eagles. Marquette cannot afford to allow Hrynko to put up those numbers if the teams have a grudge match.
The Golden Eagles squad made plans all season to be competitive not only in the Big East tournament but in national tournaments. The road to a successful postseason starts with a strong showing at the Big East tournament.
“We set goals for the tournament and going to the postseason,” Plouffe said. “Focusing on those goals and focusing on where our team is going has motivated us for sure.”