The #20 Marquette Golden Eagles handled the Montana Grizzlies with ease on Friday night, beating them 87-68 in the final game of the Cancun Challenge. It was just the game Marquette needed after losing a heart-breaker to #12 Tennessee in overtime the night before. Granted, it was against a lesser opponent, but it’s still good to see MU bounce back with a convincing 19 point victory.
What didn’t work against the Volunteers Thursday worked very well against the Grizzlies. MU’s three point shots were falling (thanks to Natisha Hiedeman’s hot hand) and they finished shooting 50% from behind the arc. That is a MAJOR improvement from their 22% against the Volunteers. The Grizzlies were the ones with poor, yet unsurprising 3-point shooting, going 27% from deep. Marquette had a better overall field goal percentage as well shooting 49% to Montana’s 41%. What also went well for the Golden Eagles? Rebounding and assists. MU out-rebounded Montana 43-32 and moved the ball around well with 25 assists to the Grizzlies’ 14.
All this led to the Golden Eagles to get out to an early 12 point lead by the end of the first quarter. By halftime, this game was essentially over with MU up 44-24. Montana wasn’t able to close the gap and the Golden Eagles cruised in the second half with all their eligible players receiving minutes.
The aforementioned Hiedeman led the way for the Golden Eagles with 21 points and shot an impressive 6-9 from 3-point range. No better way to bounce back from a 1-10 shooting performance from three than going 66% in this game. Allazia Blockton was close behind with 17 points and shot 8-13 from the field. Isabelle Spingola came off the bench with 14 and Erika Davenport rounded out the list of MU players in double digits with 13 points. The Golden Eagles have had at least four double digit scorers in every game this season. That, my friends, will win you a lot of games. It also points to the ability for any of the Golden Eagles to get hot on any given night. The MU defense fed off of how dominant the offense was and did not allow any Grizzlies player to score more than 11 points. That’s encouraging because the defense has struggled to contain the opponent’s leading scorer in previous contests.
The Golden Eagles got a much needed win against Montana and can take a lot from their trip to Mexico. Going 1-1 in the Cancun Challenge is a great showing for Marquette especially considering how closely they played the Volunteers. MU showed that they are the top-tier team most people were expecting them to be. It wasn’t only how they took #12 Tennessee the distance and then some, but then bouncing back and correcting their mistakes against Montana was really indicative of the maturity of this team. They will need to put it all together with upcoming games against Green Bay, #25 Michigan, and #6 Notre Dame.
Up Next: The Golden Eagles will return home and play Loyola-Chicago in an early 11:30am start on Tuesday. It’ll be a rambunctious crowd at the McGuire Center, as MU will be hosting kids from Milwaukee Public Schools for the game. The Ramblers are 1-4 this season and most recently lost to Milwaukee, 63-41.