"We have them right where we want them."
It's the lie that I silently repeat to myself when the Marquette women dig themselves into an early hole. This team plays best when coming from behind I tell myself as the white hairs on my head multiply. And more times than perhaps I deserve, the lie has been true and so I keep on believing that the Golden Eagle comeback is just around the corner.
But Saturday night when Marquette opened their road WNIT game in Assembly Hall with consecutive turnovers and allowed 12 unanswered points by Indiana, my faith wavered. The Hoosiers' leading scorer Larryn Brooks lit up the Golden Eagles for 22 points in the first half on her way to 33 for the night. Meanwhile, Marquette was led in scoring by Chelsie Butler's 10 points which is one less than the number of Golden Eagle turnovers in the half. The Hoosiers led by as many as 22 and went into halftime with a comfortable 41-26 lead.
But our ladies never quit, so Marquette got to work in the second half and cut the Indiana lead to 11 on a Katherine Plouffe layup with just under 16 to go in the game. After trading baskets, the Hoosiers kept the Golden Eagles at bay for most of the half and Marquette did not get close again until an Arlesia Morse jumper followed by a Katie Young three pulled them within 9 with six minutes and change on the clock.
Then things got real for Indiana very quickly: the Hoosiers' only points during a 4 minute stretch were off two free throws by Brooks while Marquette stormed back to pull within 3. Taylor Agler hit a three with the shot clock expiring to give Indiana some breathing room with 2 minutes remaining, but Young matched it on the other end. Indiana burned off nearly a minute after missing and rebounding before Brooks hit another three. Young responded in kind and then snagged a steal and a coast to coast layup to get Marquette within a point.
It suddenly seemed as if the Golden Eagles would pull off another miracle when they caught a break: the ball was tipped out of bounds after the Hoosiers inbound and the officials gave the ball to Marquette after going to the monitor. Brooklyn Pumroy inbounded to Butler who passed the ball back to her and then her shot for the lead...
Was blocked. Four seconds, a Pumroy foul, two made Indiana free throws, and a last second heave coming up short later, the Marquette season was over. Young led the Golden Eagles offense with 19 points, all made in the second half, followed by Butler (16), Morse (15), and Pumroy (13).
Terri Mitchell's crew finished the season 22-11 going 11-7 in conference for a fifth place finish in the Big East, which is a bit of an improvement over their 16-16 (7-9 BE) finish from last season. Losing to Indiana after fighting back from such a huge deficit was disappointing. But I am grateful for a team that all season made me believe until that last second that anything was possible.
Thank you especially to seniors Katherine Plouffe, Courtney Thomas, and Katie Young who have been a pleasure to watch through the highs, lows, and really lows of the past four years.