With Marquette picked to finish fifth in the 10 team Big East and Wake Forest slotted at 12th out of 15 ACC teams, Saturday afternoon's lidlifter provided a chance to check the barometer for the Golden Eagles. MU is coming off of a season where they qualified for the WNIT by making a late run. Now they reside in the "We don't have to lose to Connecticut and Notre Dame by 50 every year" Big East, so a solid win over the Demon Deacons would go a long way towards seeing if Marquette can move back to the NCAA tournament this season.
For the first 10 minutes, Wake seemed like the better team, as they built a seven point lead on a Ataijah Taylor layup. But the fouls started to mount for the Deacons, and Marquette grabbed control of the game. From down 24-17 on that Taylor layup, the Golden Eagles went on a 27-15 run over the last 10 minutes of the half to take a 44-39 lead at intermission.
Almost all of that run came with Apiew Ojulu on the bench with two fouls. She was back in the lineup at the start of the second half, but picked up her third foul just 37 seconds into the half sending Dearica Hamby to the line where she split a pair. Head coach Terri Mitchell rolled the dice and left Ojulu in the game, and that was a gamble that paid off in spades. After Hamby's made free throw, Marquette went on an 18-2 run, with eight of the points coming from Ojulu. By that point, Marquette was up 20 with 13:32 to play, and the rest of the game was academic. Wake was able to pull within 13 on a three pointer from Hamby, but there was just 1:22 remaining and MU closed out the game on a 6-0 run.
Abbie Willenborg Player Of The Game: There's a lot of good choices here. Katherine Plouffe had a career high 26 points plus 12 rebounds, five steals, and two assists. Katie Young scored 11 points and grabbed a career high 13 rebounds, not to mention her two assists, two steals, and a block. But I'm going with Apiew Ojulu for her 22 points and five rebounds in a foul-hampered 19 minutes. Ojulu sparked the run the blew the game open, and made eight of her nine field goal attempts.
Clare Barnard Undersung Eagle Of The Game: Courtney Thomas has played a grand total of 169 minutes in the three seasons of her Marquette career coming into this season, including missing the entire 2011-12 season due to injury. She played 19 minutes against Wake Forest, matched her entire scoring output from all of 2012-13 with four points on 2-4 shooting, and here's the most important part: committed ZERO turnovers. As per usual around these parts, you play that much and don't turn it over, you win.
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Marquette returns to the court tonight against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Tip off is at 7pm, and if you can't make it down tot he Al McGuire Center, you can check out the LIVE FREE STREAMING VIDEO. Live stats for the game will hopefully be here as the GameTracker crashed during the Wake Forest game.
The Lady Lions opened their regular season with a 57-42 win over something called Philander Smith, so we'll say that they've yet to face Division 1 competition. UA-PB finished 6th out of 10 in the preseason polling of the SWAC coaches after advancing to the conference tournament semifinals a year ago.
While the Lady Lions lost two all-conference performers from last year's team, they do return Nate Kilbert as head coach, who has two two straight SWAC Coach of the Year awards. Now, here's the goofy part: Kilbert won those awards by coaching TWO DIFFERENT TEAMS. After going 1-29 in 2011-12, Arkansas-Pine Bluff managed to get Kilbert to leave Mississippi Valley State, where he had won the regular season title and went to the WNIT after losing in the SWAC tournament. UAPB bounced back to a 13-18 record in their first year under Kilbert.
Sophomore Cassidy Wright is the leading returning scorer for Pine Bluff, and she tallied 16 against Philander Smith. Senior Marion Thompson and junior Carlisha Walker both grabbed nine rebounds in their opener after averaging 4.2 and 2.8 caroms per game last year respectively.