Players to Watch
Sarina Simmons, junior guard, Marquette: Simmons is the closest thing that Marquette has to a senior. Simmons needs to step her game up big time against Connecticut before the Huskies’ upperclassmen steal the show. She does not stand out in any offensive category but needs to at least score her typical 9.4 points per game.
Simmons could match up against a guard like junior Kelly Faris, who is similar on the offensive end but plays better defensively. The aggression has to be there for Simmons to finally have a coming out party and show Marquette what she could offer as a senior.
Katherine Plouffe, sophomore forward, Marquette: Plouffe has been the driving force of the Marquette offense all season. With her size, she could match up well in the paint against the Connecticut defenders. Rebounding needs to be Plouffe’s priority while thinking less about taking the ball up under the net. Taking shots under the net has not fared well for Plouffe.
Careful passing after rebounding also needs to be executed to prevent an offensive onslaught by the Huskies. Plouffe has been the go-to source for points, and when she is not on the floor, others will have to fill her void quick.
Tiffany Hayes, senior guard, Connecticut: Marquette will need to hold on to the ball tightly around Hayes. She racks up steals that will easily lead to points on the board for the Huskies. Against Pittsburgh, she chipped in five steals as part of a defensive effort that led to 21 Panther turnovers. The Huskies would go on to score 24 points off those turnovers. Marquette coach Terri Mitchell has stressed the importance of holding onto the ball, and if the Golden Eagles let the ball go early, they could also let go any chance for a lead.
Keys to Watch
Bench production from Connecticut: Freshman forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis led the Huskies in points in their win over Pittsburgh on Tuesday night with 23. She was 9-of-12 from the field after a 3-of-12 performance in a 57-56 loss to St. John’s. The Golden Eagles will have to play stout perimeter defense against Mosqueda-Lewis after she hit three treys against Pittsburgh. Connecticut outscored Pittsburgh’s bench 45-6.
Marquette needs to go pound for pound: Chelsie Butler stands tall at 6-foot-5, but that is the same exact height of Connecticut’s starting sophomore center Stefanie Dolson. Dolson has been getting into foul trouble of late, and if Butler and the Marquette defense can get her off the floor due to foul trouble, a window of opportunity to score some points opens up. With a deep, veteran team like Connecticut, there will not be too many of those opportunities, so this young Marquette team needs to play smart.
A chance to start a new losing streak: Pittsburgh had a chance to end yet another streak for Connecticut, if it had won on Tuesday. The Huskies have gone 683 games without losing two in a row. If Marquette can pull off the upset on Saturday, they have a shot of ending that streak, as the Huskies take on Notre Dame on Monday at home. Notre Dame ended a Connecticut championship run in the Final Four last year.