With just two minutes remaining, Marquette had an opportunity to finally take a lead on DePaul: Katherine Plouffe blocked a Blue Demon shot and then came down the court. Her first shot was rejected, but Plouffe snatched the ball and tried again. Rejected again, but Arlesia Morse came up with the rebound and after THE WORLD'S LONGEST SECOND in which it seemed the shot would drop in, the ball tipped out and DePaul came up with the rebound. I had been wondering for several minutes if it was worse to have no hope (as I had at halftime with the Golden Eagles down by ten) or to have hope only to have the Marquette comeback end up just short at the end. That possession when the very laws of physics seem to be against Marquette had me leaning towards the latter.
Of course, the real answer is that the worst is driving back to Chicago after feeling fairly confident that your team is going to win only to have that victory ripped away.
DePaul missed two shots on their end, then Apiew Ojulu missed and came up with the rebound. The second shot did not miss and Ojulu also drew the foul: a made free throw later, it was clear that momentum had shifted in the Golden Eagle's favor. A made three by Brittany Hrynko kept it interesting, but Blue Demons couldn't come up with a rebound off their misses to save their lives. So they had to start fouling Marquette which made 6 of 8 to put the game away.
A victory seemed unlikely for Marquette after what felt like a disastrous first half: the Golden Eagles went 10 of 30 on their field goal attempts including a woeful 1 of 9 from behind the arc. DePaul's trap defense resulted in 13 Marquette turnovers in the first (it got a little better in the second as the Golden Eagles finished with 21 on the night). Fortunately, the Blue Demons also forgot how to score: they made 12 of 37 in the first and mostly built their 35-25 halftime lead on slightly better shooting from three point land.
The Marquette women still haven't met a deficit that they're cowed by and immediately got to work with a Cristina Bigica steal and three pointer to open the second half. The Golden Eagles tied it up at 43 after Arlesia Morse made a layup, drew a foul, and made the freebie. It turned out that DePaul still couldn't shoot well and now their physical trapping was actually getting whistled for fouls: they matched their first half total (6) inside of 8 minutes. In fact, it seemed that the referees had flat out decided to reverse how they called fouls from the first half, as DePaul spent the last 11:30 of the first half in the bonus, and Marquette never got there, while the second half differential was 19 for DePaul and 8 for Marquette. Both teams stayed on each others' heels with neither able to cobble together anything bigger than a 4 point lead until Marquette pulled just enough away in the closing minute to seal the deal.
Five Golden Eagles closed the night with double digits: Morse led the pack with 17 while Plouffe notched another double double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Bigica had 12 with Brooklyn Pumroy and Katie Young close behind with 11.
Abbie Willenborg Player of the Game: It's getting to the point where opposing coaches have to be dreading the moment when Terri Mitchell puts Arlesia Morse into the game. She played just 22 minutes against the Blue Demons, but came up with 17 points on 5-9 shooting including two of five behind the arc, and grabbed six rebounds, dished two assists, and snared a steal on top of it. I wish someone did Offensive Efficiency ratings for women's hoops, just so I could see how insane Morse's night was.
Clare Barnard Undersung Eagle of the Game: Between Morse laying waste to DePaul whenever she was on the court, Plouffe's double-double, and Ojulu coming up with the big bucket, lost in the shuffle was Brooklyn Pumroy's night. Yes, she picked up two fouls in the first five minutes. But she only sat for six minutes in the first half and played almost all of the second half without picking up her third strike. In the meantime, Pumroy scored 11 points largely on the back of a 7-10 night from the charity stripe, plus she added six assists and two steals against just two turnovers, and grabbed four rebounds as well. Quite the night for MU's sophomore point guard.
Up Next: The Golden Eagles take their 9-5 record and tied for fourth place status to South Orange, NJ, on Saturday to face Seton Hall (15-10, 6-8) before running a gauntlet of at St. John's, Creighton, and at Villanova to end the regular season.