Despite a career best and MU Big East tournament record 31 points from Allazia Blockton, Marquette fell to Seton Hall on Sunday afternoon in the 2016 Big East tournament quarterfinals, 93-86. With the loss, Marquette's season ends with a record of 14-16, making them ineligible for further postseason play.
Unlike the two regular season meetings between the two teams, neither side was able to take a significant advantage in this game. Marquette took a seven point lead in the first quarter, and would actually hold the lead for most of the first half. Things slipped away from the Golden Eagles in the second half as the Pirates essentially stopped missing. Seton Hall shot 63% in the second half, including a 4-8 mark on three point attempts. They would build a lead of as many as 11 points with 3:53 left in the game, but even then, Marquette wasn't going away without a fight. The Golden Eagles scored the next eight points of the game in just 70 seconds to turn it into a three point game with 2:43 to play. Aleesha Powell broke that run for Seton Hall, and then MU never got closer than five points.
It's the second straight year that the Golden Eagles have been bounced from the Big East tournament in the quarterfinals by Seton Hall. At this point, though, it's hard to be bummed out about this loss. Seton Hall got 87 of their 93 points in this game from seniors. Marquette, on the other hand, got 84 of their 86 points from freshmen. This season was an amazing turnaround from 9-22 and 4-14 in league play a year ago, and head coach Carolyn Kieger did it by playing five freshmen and two upperclassmen with essentially zero in-game experience. Hell, things actually got noticeably harder for Kieger when JUCO transfer Chelsey Gibson blew her knee out on the first day of practice. That forced Kieger to radically alter what her overall game plan for the year was with just a couple of weeks until the season actually started. Remember: MU started the season 0-4, and then finished 14-12, including a record of 9-9 in Big East games.
There are no seniors on this squad. Everyone's coming back for 2016-17, and Kieger has already signed up four more freshmen to add depth to the roster. I said at the start of the season that Kieger was essentially starting the program over from scratch. With Allazia Blockton as her cornerstone, Kieger got that foundation laid in a hurry. This program has a very bright future, and that future will start much quicker than I could have expected.