Backed by a pair of 20 point outings, #3 seeded Marquette Golden Eagles knocked off #1 seeded DePaul Blue Demons, 86-78, in the Big East women’s basketball tournament championship game on Tuesday night. The Golden Eagles (25-7) are Big East tournament champions for the first time and they have secured the Big East’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. As a nice bonus, due to the Blue Demons picking up a #17 ranking in Monday’s Associated Press poll, Marquette is now 6-0 this season when playing a ranked foe.
This was one of the more fun basketball games that you’ll watch. Neither team led by more than seven points through the first three quarters and we saw 15 lead changes throughout the game. The two sides traded advantages in the first quarter, with Marquette taking a four point lead midway through the frame before DePaul went on a 10-2 run to make it a four point lead in their favor with under a minute left. And then this happened to wrap up the first 10 minutes of play:
I don’t know what I’m more impressed by: McKayla Yentz timing her jump perfectly with the clock winding down or Hiedeman burying the half-courter. Hell, upon watching the replay, I’m surprised to find out that Hiedeman was that far back! I thought she crossed half court for sure, which is why I was pretty confident that she was going to bury the shot once she got free.
That made it a 25-24 game, and Marquette scored the first two buckets of the second quarter to open up a five point lead, the biggest of the game in either direction to that point. It looked like Marquette was going to start creating some distance as they pushed the lead to six and then to seven on a bucket from Amani Wilborn with 93 seconds left in the half. DePaul had some tricks up their sleeves, though, and Jessica January’s last second jumper caught a lucky bounce to make it 42-40 favoring the Golden Eagles at intermission.
The Blue Demons used some hot three-point shooting to assert themselves in the third quarter. They knocked down four of their eight long range attempts in the period, including the first and last baskets of the quarter, and the last one, coming from Chante Stonewall, gave us a one point game with 10 minutes to play.
The Golden Eagles opened up the final frame with a 7-0 run capped off by a three-pointer from McKayla Yentz, one of just two made shots in the game for MU’s lone senior. Two freebies from Hiedeman with 4:36 made it a 10 points game, and a layup from Wilborn made it a 12 point game with 2:18 to play. It almost seemed like it was safe to celebrate, but DePaul isn’t afraid of big moments. They chipped away: A three from Kelly Campbell, a pair of freebies from January, a split pair of free throws from Brooke Schulte. Suddenly it was just a six point game with 1:35 to play.
Marquette used some free throws of their own to extend the lead back to 10 with 35 seconds left. Still not safe, as January hit a jumper, Danielle King fumbled the inbound pass out of bounds, and January tacked on a triple. Five point game, 23 seconds left.
Wilborn split a pair of free throws after a DePaul foul, and the Blue Demons had a slim chance to pull the stunner. January missed a three, but Campbell fell down while hauling in the rebound and got whistled for traveling. Two free throws from Hiedeman to give her a game high 28 points, one final inbound for DePaul, and that was that.
Hiedeman is Marquette’s lone rep on the all-tournament team after averaging 16.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.0 assists in MU’s three games and shooting 45.5% from behind the arc. She broke the Marquette sophomore record for threes in a season during Tuesday night’s championship game and set the Golden Eagles’ record for threes in a Big East championship game with six.... although that’s slightly misleading since it was MU’s first ever BE title game.
Wilborn was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament without starting any of the three games for the Golden Eagles. She finished with averages of 17.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists, and get this — Wilborn shot 66% from the field in MU’s three tournament games. It was also her birthday on Tuesday, and that’s not such a bad way to celebrate.
Marquette will sit back and relax until Monday night when the NCAA tournament field is announced. The Golden Eagles have assured themselves of a spot in the 64 team event with the Big East tournament title, the only thing they need to know is who, when, and where they’ll be playing next. The Selection Show will be at 6pm Central time on Monday, and ESPN will carry the telecast.