South Dakota overcame a strong Marquette rally and benefited from some late Golden Eagle miscues to pick up a 69-65 win in the Al McGuire Center on Sunday afternoon. The loss drops MU to 2-4 early in Carolyn Kieger's tenure as head coach.
Raeshel Contreras ripped off the first seven points of the game and it looked like Marquette had no idea what to expect from the Coyotes. Kieger had gone with freshman Hannah Grim and the relatively inexperienced sophomore McKayla Yentz in the starting lineup, and they were getting blitzed by USD. Before Contreras scored her third basket of the game, freshmen Kenisha Bell and Tia Elbert were at the scorer's table, but it took an MU time out to get them in the game.
From there, things started to even out. Marquette cut the lead to four repeatedly in the first half, but couldn't get any closer. South Dakota took a 29-20 lead at halftime, but it was all Golden Eagles coming out of the break. Arlesia Morse's eight point of the half (and the game, she went scoreless in the first half) knotted it at 33, and because she had been fouled, her free throw gave the Golden Eagles their first lead with 15:40 remaining. Two free throws from Bell gave Marquette their largest lead at three points, but just 30 seconds later, Nicole Seekamp buried a triple to tie things back up.
It was competitive over the final 14 minutes, but neither team could gain any separation, and the lead tipped back and forth. Finally, in the waning moments, Bell got a layup and a foul, and converted the traditional three-point play to give the Golden Eagles a 65-63 lead. But on the north end of the McGuire Center, tragedy struck. First, Tia Hemiller got an uncontested layup after her defender slipped and fell to the deck, then Bell threw away the inbounds pass. Contreras was the lucky recipient, and she calmly knocked down a pair of free throws to give the Coyotes the lead. That left Marquette with 11 seconds to traverse the floor and knock down a shot to tie. Bell got free on the right side, and let fly with a floater with about 5 seconds left. Bell was playing well in the second half, scoring 14 of her 22 points, but this shot wasn't the best that Marquette could have hoped for. It rattled off, as did Morse's putback, leaving MU no choice but to foul Hemiller with 2 seconds left. She canned both her freebies, and Marquette's chance of getting back to .500 evaporated into thin air.
Abbie Willenborg Player Of The Game: Can you be the best player in the game if you went scoreless in the first half? Apparently it's possible, as this has to go to Arlesia Morse. Obviously, she's getting competition from Kenisha Bell, but Bell nearly pulled off a bad triple-double: 22 points, eight rebounds, and nine turnovers. Morse had 15 points, all in the second half, including a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line. She had a double-double with 11 rebounds, including four on the offensive end.
Clare Barnard Undersung Eagle Of The Game: Shout out to Lauren Tibbs, who grabbed 15 rebounds, a new career high. Five of those caroms came on the offensive glass as well. She was out there on her own for a lot of the game, as Chelsie Butler was in a walking boot and not dressed to play, but she was a tireless worker for the Golden Eagles.
Up Next: A quick turnaround, as they'll be packing their bags and heading out today. They'll be in Alabama tomorrow night to face Auburn. The Tigers are 3-2 and coming off losses in their first two road games of the season.