Marquette coach Terri Mitchell was as angry as I’ve ever seen her after Tuesday’s game against UConn. The Huskies had beaten her team before, like a few weeks ago in Milwaukee – and rather convincingly.
But she has always managed to crack at least a small smile in her postgame press conferences and deliver at least one or two gracious accolades.
Not on Tuesday. not after UConn destroyed the Golden Eagles, 94-37, with 15 threes and 33 first-half fastbreak points.
She was visibly upset with her team’s effort. It shot 14 of 56 and played poorly, which shocked and angered her.
But she was also upset with the Big East for deciding to pair her program with UConn as one of the two home-and-away partners each team has in conference play. Notre Dame is UConn’s other partner.
She called the decision a “charade” after the game and wanted to know from Danielle Donehew, the associate commissioner of the conference for women’s basketball. “whether it was going to continue [in future].”
The Big East said before the season that it did the best it could to pair teams up, trying to keep in mind the competitive balance in the league, which is very fragile.
For instance, Providence got the short straw with Notre Dame, which has played in the last two national championship games. The Irish won the first meeting in South Bend by 45. It won’t be much closer in March when they play in Rhode Island.
Bottom line: Someone had to get UConn and Notre Dame and Marquette and Providence were the unlucky ones. If they are lucky, and the Catholic 7 break away from the Big East after this season, neither may have to worry about the problem again.
I get Mitchell’s anger. Getting blasted this badly twice – by a combined 91 points – does not help the self-image and confidence of her team, which likely will finish in the bottom half of the Big East. The Golden Eagles are 11-11 and 3-6 in the conference.
But here’s what sticks in my mind. Marquette’s best player, Katherine Plouffe, its leading scorer and rebounder, played 45 minutes against the Huskies this season and scored four points with three rebounds.
What does that say about the chances the Golden Eagles felt they had against UConn this season?
This was a problem Mitchell would have rather not dealt with this season. It was a bad night for a million reasons for her.
“I just think that they’re an intense team all the time and they jumped all over us and tonight was brutal. We just have to find a way to move on.”
“It’s what the Big East decided, that we had to play [Connecticut] twice. We talked about it, that it’s going to be tough and we’ve got to get better. I knew it would be a tough game, but my goal was that we would get better from the first game, but unfortunately we didn’t. That’s what is disappointing to me.”“[Connecticut] played hard. They took the life out of us in the first few minutes and we didn’t recover. That just really bothers me, because we played hard in moments, but you can’t ever step on the court and not play hard the entire time against one of the top teams in the country. We looked shell-shocked and at this point in the year you can’t look shell-shocked.”