HENRY BREDEMEIER | ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Butler women’s basketball team lost to Marquette 95-57 at Hinkle Fieldhouse, as they fell to 1-11 on the season. Redshirt senior Jaia Alexander scored a season-high 22 points for the Bulldogs, and senior Genesis Parker added 10 points. Butler’s leading scorer Okako Adika, who averages 13.6 points per game, was quiet in this one, only taking four shots and scoring two points.
Marquette started the game on a quick 6-0 run before Alexander hit a step-back mid-range jumper to get the Bulldogs on the board. Marquette imposed their will on the Bulldogs in the first five minutes of the game, specifically in the rebounding department. The Golden Eagles had more offensive rebounds in the first five minutes than the Bulldogs had total rebounds, and they turned those into four second-chance points, propelling them to an early 14-4 lead.
Alexander was cooking in the first quarter, scoring eight of Butler’s ten points in the back half of the first quarter. She was working in the mid-range where she thrives. She was also backing down her defenders and getting close looks at the rim and drawing fouls. Despite her and the rest of the Butler offense playing relatively well—including a great Annilia Dawn feed to Adika—Marquette was scoring at will versus the Bulldogs defense. In the final two minutes of the quarter, the Golden Eagles scored on all four of their possessions, including back-to-back threes, extending their lead to 28-16 at the end of the first.
The Marquette defense got off to a better start in the second quarter, shutting out the Bulldogs for the first three minutes and hitting two shots, including a 3-pointer. Freshman point guard Tenley Dowell—making her first start since New Year’s Eve—made a layup with under seven to play to end Butler’s scoring drought. Any momentum that could have followed was short-lived as Marquette’s Claire Kaifes made her second 3-pointer in as many minutes immediately following the Dowell bucket. Alexander continued her strong outing a couple possessions later after stealing the ball from Marquette and drawing a shooting foul and cashing in both free throws.
On the next possession following a Marquette score, Alexander hit a long two-point jumper after an Adika offensive board. Two possessions later, she made a baseline fadeaway jumper to bring her total in the half to 16—more than she has scored in a single game all season.
That bucket cut the Marquette lead to 16 points with under four minutes to play in the half, which is not an insurmountable lead if Butler could have finished the half strong. Instead, it was the Golden Eagles who ended the half on a tear, scoring 8 points in a row in the three minutes following Alexander’s score. Dowell found Emilia Sexton in the corner for three with eleven seconds left, but Marquette’s Lauren Van Kleunen hit a three at the buzzer to wipe out Sexton’s score and give the Golden Eagles a 51-27 halftime lead.
Butler’s offense was not the problem in the first half, although it is hard to consistently score when their two top scorers—Parker and Adika—combined for four first half points on 2/8 shooting. Alexander bailed out the Butler offense with her hot first half shooting, but the Bulldogs defense allowed too many open shots and were too slow on switches to keep them in the game. Marquette had 16 assists on 21 made shots in the first half, a testament to how well they moved the ball, but also an indicator that the Bulldogs were leaving people open. In contrast, Butler only had three assists in the first half, a low number for a half, albeit not surprising: Alexander thrives in isolation.
The Golden Eagles got off to a hot start in the second half, scoring on their first four possessions and only allowing a Micah Sheetz layup to extend their lead to 30 points. Head Coach Kurt Godlevske decided to shift to a full-court press for a stretch to put pressure on Marquette. His plan worked. Butler only allowed one field goal over a five-minute stretch in the third and went on a 14-5 during that stretch.
With help from the press, Parker sparked the offense. She knocked down a pair of free throws, followed by an intercepted pass in the backcourt, enabling her to score an easy layup. After a few minutes of scoreless basketball, Alexander made an excellent pass to a cutting Parker who made the layup in traffic. On the next possession, Sexton hit her second three of the game, only to be followed by a Marquette three immediately after. Alexander hit an impressive and-one on Butler’s next possession. Soon after, a Parker jumper capped off the nice Bulldog run. The last two and a half minutes of the quarter consisted of almost exclusively free throws, and Marquette took their commanding 70-47 lead into the fourth.
Although the game was virtually over, the fourth quarter was not a great showing for the Bulldogs. They were outscored 25-10 in the final period, including a 17-2 run by Marquette over a five minute stretch in the quarter. Dawn scored an and-one with three minutes left and Dowell hit a three to make the score a bit closer, but Marquette scored two buckets at the end to give them the 95-57 win.
This concludes the Bulldogs toughest stretch of the season, after playing the Big East’s three best teams in a row. It may not be getting much easier for the Bulldogs, as their next game is on the road at Creighton–a team they lost to by 47 when they played in December at Hinkle.
That game versus the Blue Jays is this Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. in Omaha, Nebraska.