Marquette Women’s Basketball: Mitchell earns win No. 300

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The Marquette women’s basketball team (4-3) defeated the New Orleans Privateers 96-35 for coach Terri Mitchell’s 300th career win Tuesday night at the Al McGuire Center. To get win 301 and beyond, the Golden Eagles and will need plenty of performances like Tuesday’s against far more talented teams.

Coach Terri Mitchell earned her 300th win of her Marquette career Tuesday evening. Photo by Aaron Ledesma/aaron.ledesma@marquette.ed

Marquette dominated the Privateers under the basket, outscoring them in the paint 56-10. Picking up a high percentage of their points in the frontcourt — 58.3 percent, to be exact —  is something the Golden Eagles have stressed all season. The average height of Marquette’s five active post players is almost 6-feet-3-inches, an advantage that has dictated the team’s success — and failure — so far.

“With the size advantage that we have, we are always looking to go inside and let our guards knock down shots with inside-outs,” sophomore forward Katherine Plouffe said.

Three Marquette forwards posted double-doubles, including freshmen Chelsie Butler (12 points, 11 rebounds) and Apiew Ojulu (21 points, 14 rebounds.) With the frontcourt in a youth movement this season, Butler and Ojulu’s big night showed that the Golden Eagles’ first year squad has plenty of ability to score inside both in the starting rotation and off the bench.

“Last year’s squad went to the NCAA Tournament, and this year with six freshmen we didn’t want to take a step back,” Ojulu said. “As young players we have to mature, and our (freshmen) rotations right now give us opportunities to do that.”

With youth, however, comes inexperience and the issue of turnovers — Marquette averaged 23 per game heading into the match-up with New Orleans. While only committing 11 against the Privateers, Plouffe said the Golden Eagles still have a lot of work to do if they want to improve their ball handling.

“We are turnover-prone, and we need to work on keeping those down when we play better teams this Friday and Sunday,” she said. “Under pressure we need to take care of the ball and make good passes because when we do that, we score in the paint and get good outside shot opportunities.”

Mitchell said she has especially stressed the concept of the “extra pass” to her players in their efforts to play more efficient basketball.

“It’s not about the first pass trying to make something happen, its about the extra pass that sets your teammates up,” she said. “We need guards to penetrate gaps and make defenders play them in order to set up the extra pass in the paint. We know we have a size advantage, but we also know that teams are going to try to take away our inside game.

“I was pleased with our decision-making on those shots tonight, and it’s really been about deciding what the best shot is for our team right now.”

It all comes down to consistency both under the basket and handling the ball for the young Golden Eagles. Seven games in, it’s evident that when Marquette scores more points in the paint and turns the ball over less than its opponent, it wins games.

In last week’s Paradise Jam tournament, Washington State and Michigan outscored Marquette a combined 62-46 in the paint and scored 40 points off 46 Marquette turnovers. Marquette lost both of those games by double digits.

With the Big East gauntlet looming ahead, the Golden Eagles will have to use every inch of their height advantage they can and mature quickly if they want to be in the mix come NCAA Tournament time.