Amani Wilborn’s career best 21 points could not have come at a better time, as the #3 seeded Marquette Golden Eagles dropped the #2 seeded Creighton Bluejays on Monday afternoon in the Big East women’s basketball tournament semifinals, 72-65.
Marquette (24-7) advances to Tuesday night’s championship game, where they will take on top seeded DePaul Blue Demons. It will be the first ever Big East championship game appearance for the Golden Eagles.
This was far from an easy win for the Golden Eagles. The Jays started out the game white out, dropping in four of their 10 three-point attempts in the first quarter and led by as many as seven in the first 10 minutes. Things switched around for the Golden Eagles in the second frame, using a 5-0 burst off the jump to take the lead for the first time on a triple from Danielle King and outscoring the Bluejays 8-2 over the final three minutes and change to take a six point lead at the break.
Things went weaving back and forth in the third quarter, with Erika Davenport pushing the lead to eight to break the ice on the second half and then Audrey Faber cutting the lead to just one with 4:14 left in the frame. Natisha Hiedeman answered with a three, one of just three long range makes in the game for the Golden Eagles, and that jumpstarted a 7-0 Marquette run..... before Creighton cut the lead back to just three as we headed to the fourth quarter.
A bucket from Wilborn and then one from Hiedeman pushed the lead as high as 11 early in the period as it seemed like maybe, just maybe, Marquette could put this one away a little early. But zooooooop, a 6-0 run by the Jays in less than two minutes, and things were back in doubt. As they did all game long, Marquette struggled to even pretend to contain Sydney Lamberty, who scored 12 of her game high 26 points in the fourth quarter, including the layup that made it 69-63 with a bit over 100 seconds remaining. Nightmares of the absurd loss in Omaha started flashing in the minds of the more negative minded Marquette fans (aka: me), but Allazia Blockton scored her final field goal of the game, and then following a Marissa Janning miss, Blockton split a pair of free throws to make it a nine point game. Lamberty got one more layup in, and after MU broke the Creighton press, the Jays let the Golden Eagles wind out the clock in peace.
Lamberty didn’t just give Marquette fits with her offense, where she shot 12-of-21 in the game to get her career best in scoring. She ripped MU apart on the glass, too, grabbing up another career best with 15 of Creighton’s 37 rebounds in the game and singlehandedly being responsible for one-third of CU’s offensive rebounds.
Marquette didn’t just get a big game from Wilborn, who also had three rebounds and four assists. They also got a quietly great game from Allazia Blockton, who “only” put up 19 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and a steal, and Danielle King was superb with 18/5/5 and a steal. After dinging up her ankle against Georgetown in the quarterfinals, Natisha Hiedeman started and played 38 minutes. She only had five points on 2-of-9 shooting, but she still got five rebounds, dished two assists, and swiped two steals to chip in.
We should also mention that with a three-pointer at the 2:06 mark of the first quarter, Allazia Blockton gave MU 209 made three-pointers on the season. That broke the all-time program record for threes by a team in a season, set waaaay back in 1994-95.
How about some highlights, courtesy of FS1 and GoMarquette.com?
Oh, one more thing, how about head coach Carolyn Kieger’s postgame speech in the locker room?
Up Next: Well, after their victory over St. John’s in the other semifinal game, it’ll be a third go-round with DePaul this season, although from a certain point of view, it’ll be the first meeting between Marquette and DePaul. The Golden Eagles defeated the Blue Demons twice this season, but both games came while Big East Preseason Player of the Year Jessica January was sidelined with a broken finger. She’s back now, though, so this will be the first time the two sides will face off while fully powered. Tipoff is schedule for 8pm Central with the broadcast coming to you on FS1.