I knew how St. Francis played against Wisconsin in their opener, and I know how Carolyn Kieger wants her Marquette teams to play. I was expecting a pretty wild up and down game at the Al McGuire Center on Tuesday night, but I don’t think I was expecting what we got.
Three different Golden Eagles scored at least 20 points and 11 players between the two squads scored in double digits as Marquette rallied back from a 12 point deficit early in the second quarter to lead by as many as 18 before finally winning 104-91 over the Red Flash. Marquette’s now 2-0 on the season.
The Golden Eagles countered an outstanding shooting night by St. Francis in two ways. First of all, as the Red Flash went 14-of-34 (41.2%) from three point range, Marquette didn’t get baited into matching them shot for shot. The Golden Eagles attempted just 16 long range shots, and yes, they weren’t good at hitting them on Tuesday night, making just three of them. Instead, Marquette focused on getting the ball inside and thrashing SFU with a clearly more physical team. Allazia Blockton (24 points, 10 rebounds) and Erika Davenport (23 points, 11 rebounds) got point blank shots over and over and over again as the pair combined to shoot 20-31 without a single three-point attempt between them. Amani Wilborn was great as well, connecting on 8-of-13 attempts, all inside the arc, making use of her speed and agility to record a new career high of 20 points.
The Red Flash came out of the gate white hot, crushing 8 of 15 long range attempts in the opening 10 minutes of the game to take a nine point lead. They hit their first shot - surprise, a three - of the second quarter to give them a 12 point lead, which would end up being their biggest of the game. Somehow, through a whole bucket load of hustle and determination, MU had cut that down to just four points at halftime. As impressive as that might have been, the third quarter was even more impressive as Marquette outscored St. Francis, 31-18. The damage was done in the back end of the quarter, as Davenport knotted the game at 66 with 5:22 left and it was Blockton’s last second layup that put Marquette up 9, 82-73.
It got worse for St. Francis from there. Blockton’s bucket was the second straight unanswered basket for the Golden Eagles that started a 13-0 run that stretched until there was just 5:26 left in the game. Cydney Smith scored for SFU to make it a 16 point game, but by then, it was mostly over. Yes, the lead dwindled a little bit, down to 11 with 3:13 remaining. Davenport pushed it back to 13, and the Red Flash would never get that close again.
As wild and as up and down as the game was, Marquette was never out of control. They turned it over 16 times, sure, but in a 90 possession game, that was just 17% of the time. That’s definitely manageable. Marquette’s motif of taking it inside held up on the glass, too. The Golden Eagles reeled in 43% of their missed shots, with Davenport and Blockton both hauling in five offensive rebounds as part of their double-doubles. The rebounding worked just fine on the other end, too, as MU held St. Francis to a second chance on just 28.2% of their missed shots.
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Up Next: Marquette is going to follow up that barnburner with the biggest test of the season so far. #18 Arizona State comes to Milwaukee on Saturday for a return bout from their meeting in the desert last year. The Sun Devils are 2-0 after two home #BEATEMDOWN’s against Illinois State and San Jose State.