The Marquette women’s basketball team’s 3-1 start hasn’t been easy in it’s inaugural season in the reformed Big East Conference.
Each of the Golden Eagles’ four conference games was decided by six points or fewer, emphasizing the level of competition in the new conference.
“It’s definitely a powerhouse conference,” senior forward Katherine Plouffe said. “I like competing in every game even though we don’t necessarily want it to be close. The teams are at such a high level, it makes it fun.”
“It’s a great conference. Every game can be anyone’s game so it’s challenging,” assistant coach Christina Quaye said.
Marquette (12-3) showed its prowess in tight matchups all season. The Golden Eagles won six of their eight games by fewer than 10 points. Quaye said the team’s success in crunch time comes down to one factor: effort.
“We really try to focus on our principles and try to stay focused,” Quaye said. “We key on effort and rebounding has been a big thing for us.”
Plouffe said Marquette’s formula for its early-season success is managing what the team can control and improving on what it does well.
“What we do well is rebound, run and we want to defend,” Plouffe said. “Defending is what we’ve been working on in practice because we need to pick that up to the level our rebounding is at.”
The Golden Eagles welcome St. John’s (10-5) to the Al McGuire Center Saturday afternoon in a matchup between the two teams who are challenging Creighton for the conference’s top spot.
The Red Storm are led by sophomore guard Aliyyah Handford, who is averaging 17.8 points per game on 52.4 percent shooting. St. John’s has been a second half team this season, with a scoring margin of plus-52 in the second half, compared to just plus-three in the first.
Marquette will need to use its rebounding, which is ranked fifth statistically in the NCAA, to its advantage Saturday. The Golden Eagles average 10.6 more rebounds than the Red Storm and dominated opponents with a rebounding margin of plus-14.4 per game.
One thing St. John’s will have entering Saturday’s game is momentum. The Red Storm enter Saturday’s game on a three game winning streak.
“They’re playing really well right now coming off of two big wins,” Quaye said. “They beat DePaul and they beat Creighton, so we need to stay hungry.”
As for Plouffe, who averaged 23 points in three conference games and leads the Big East in scoring, she does not plan on tampering with her play.
“Just keep focusing on what I can do and not forcing anything,” she said. “My teammates and my coaches are confident in me and build me up in that way. I’ll try to keep doing what I’ve been doing.”