Marquette women's basketball trailed by as many as 17 in the third quarter against Northern Kentucky.
They would erase that entire deficit and briefly take a lead with 1:21 remaining in the game, but ultimately fell against the Norse, 83-78.
Ultimately, the game came down to just a few odd moments along the way. MU and NKU played a competitive and back and forth first quarter, ending tied at 16. However, the trouble had already started. Erika Davenport picked up two fouls within 90 seconds of coming in to protect Shantelle Valentine, who earned her first foul with 7:43 left in the first quarter. McKayla Yentz couldn't get out of the first quarter without two fouls, and the free throws coming from that second infraction allowed Northern Kentucky to cut into a three point Marquette lead.
Valentine's second foul of the game came with 7:25 left in the second and NKU had already taken a five point lead. The lead became eight on the free throws stemming from Ines Mata's second foul, and she would eventually pick up a third before the half as well. That left Marquette's two upperclasswomen on the bench with two fouls and one of the eight freshmen on the bench with three. The margin ballooned to 14 late in the half as NKU went on a 6-0 run over more than three and a half minutes, but layups from Allazia Blockton and Natisha Hiedeman made it just a 10 points game at the break.
Yentz & Valentine started the third quarter, and their foul trouble probably didn't help things, but it was a barrage of three pointers, two from Christine Roush and one from Kelley Wiegman that turned the game even further in favor of Northern Kentucky. It was a layup from Molly Glick that gave the Norse that fateful 17 point lead that was going to end up being too much for the Golden Eagles to deal with. MU would end the period on a 15-7 run to make things interesting heading to the fourth quarter.
A three from Olivia Moskari early in the 4th quarter cut the lead to just five points, but NKU would push it back to 12 on a triple from Roush. A layup from Amani Wilborn cut it to seven, but NKU responded again, dragging the lead back to 12 with 4:10 remaining. That's when the Norse stopped scoring. A freebie from Valentine, back to back and-1's for Blockton (although she missed the FTs), a pair from the stripe from Hiedeman, and a third and-1 from Blockton, and suddenly, in just over two minutes, MU had turned it into a two point game.
Rebecca Lyttle missed two free throws for NKU, and Natisha Hiedeman responded by BURYING a three pointer from the corner to give Marquette their first lead since 16-14 late in the first. She also showed her freshman side by promptly fouling out of the game as Marquette pressured the Norse on the ensuing inbounds. Shar`Rae Davis split the freebies, but NKU got the offensive rebound and a layup from Wiegman to take the lead.
The game got a little weird from there, as NKU fouled early on MU's possession, leading to a 1-2 trip to the line for Yentz, and then Marquette returned the favor. The Golden Eagles trailed 79-78 with 38 seconds left, and yet, even though MU was likely to get the ball back with 8 seconds to play, according to the announcers on ESPN3, head coach Carolyn Kieger called for the foul. Allazia Blockton complied, and Wiegman drained both sides of her gift. That's where things got REALLY weird, as Marquette had just under 27 seconds to attempt to tie the game at 81 and instead of taking a moment to make the best play possible, MU hurried like hell to get the shot off. Running up the floor, making hurried passes, Yentz rushed a three point attempt with a mountain of time remaining, Blockton grabbed the rebound, but she rushed a putback attempt and missed, and NKU came up with the defensive board.
THERE WAS EIGHT SECONDS LEFT AFTER ALL OF THIS.
Eight seconds that could have been used to get a better try from long range that was only needed because Kieger signaled for the foul in the first place. Very weird times. Marquette fouled after the inbounds to get the ball back, Roush made two FTs, and Yentz missed an essentially pointless three pointer at the buzzer.
In their hands, but it just fell out at the end, for the second straight game. You could make an argument that they're showing signs of improvement by fighting to the last second and even rallying from that major deficit. But if the Golden Eagles are going to win games, they're going to need their freshmen to make big plays in big moments, and that didn't happen with the game on the line and the clock evaporating. Not this time, at least.
The big take away from the game is that Allazia Blockton is turning into Marquette's biggest threat. She had a career best 22 points on 7-16 shooting, including 2-4 from long range. She also reeled in six rebounds and found time for an assists and three steals. Natisha Hiedeman was a whirling dervish as well, scoring 17 before fouling out, and adding two rebounds, three assists, and five steals. Olivia Moskari broke out of her shooting slump, going 3-7 from behind the three point line. Signs of life are there, Marquette just needs to turn them into wins.
Up Next: The Golden Eagles are already on their way to Vermillion, South Dakota. It's a pretty quick turnaround as MU goes shuttling about the country to return all those home games they played a year ago. They'll take on South Dakota on Monday night, which will be the home opener for the 0-3 Coyotes.