The Marquette Golden Eagles could not handle the outstanding play of the #1 seed Louisville Cardinals and lost 90-72 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday afternoon. We were all hoping for the upset, but for that to happen the Golden Eagles would have had to keep up with the Cardinals’ lights out shooting. That just didn’t happen.
I want to highlight the positive takeaways from this game first. Like I mentioned up in the headline, advancing this far in the tournament is huge for a Golden Eagle team that hadn’t been to the second round since 2011. It’s also just the 5th time in program history that MU had reached the second round of the women’s hoops championship. It’s important to keep this in mind considering Marquette will be returning all but one of their players next season. MU will be back stronger than ever next season and will hope to make a deeper run in The Tournament.
Also, Big East Player of the Year Allazia Blockton had herself the best game any Golden Eagle player has ever had in the NCAA tournament with a team record 34 points. She broke Natisha Hiedeman’s record of 32 set waaaaay back....... on Friday in the win over Dayton. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, Blockton and Hiedeman have the two best scoring outputs in Marquette NCAA Tournament history. And they did it in back-to-back games. That is something to be proud of.
The Golden Eagles showed a lot of fight throughout the game but it was clear from the get-go that they were heavily outmatched. Essentially, they could not handle the size of the Cardinals and had trouble getting good shots off throughout the game. Louisville shot nearly 80% in the first quarter, which is absolutely ridiculous, to get out to a 34-16 lead. The game was basically over after that. Marquette could not find a way to get themselves back in the game. MU was held to 41% shooting and just 27% from three. They probably needed to shoot at least 50% from three to get back into the game, and that’s just not MU’s game.
Louisville finished the game 63% from the field in large part due to the incredible shooting performances of Myisha Hynes-Allen and Asia Durr. Hynes-Allen made her first 10 shots on her way to 24 points on 12 of 16 shooting. She also had a double-double, grabbing 13 boards. Durr dropped 19 points on 8 of 15 shooting and dished out 6 assists. Sam Fuerhing and Jazmine Jones were the other two Cardinals in double-digits with 19 and 14 points a piece.
The Cardinals dominated Marquette in all facets of the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if Louisville wins the National Championship. They are one of the few teams that can give UConn a run for their money, and already hold two wins this season over Notre Dame. With that said, give Marquette credit for not giving up in this game. Coach Carolyn Kieger kept her team motivated and they actually outscored the Cardinals in the second half 45-38. They did this by coming out of halftime on fire shooting an astronomical 85% from the field. Despite their valiant efforts, they couldn’t get closer than 18 points because the Cardinals kept putting points up at a high rate as well.
I’m happy with the way the Golden Eagles fought in this game. You can’t call this anything but a successful season winning the Big East regular season, reaching the Big East tournament title game, and reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It’s also Coach Kieger’s first Tournament win in her four seasons with the Golden Eagles. This is going to be a better team next year with their eyes set on making a deeper run in the NCAA Tournament.
One last thing before we go, and we have to make sure we get to it before we put a bow on the season. We have to send a big AE THANK YOU to Shantelle Valentine, Marquette’s lone senior. She’s the lone remaining Terri Mitchell recruit on the squad, and took a chance on Carolyn Kieger when Marquette elected to change coaches before Valentine’s freshman year started. In her sophomore season, she was thrust into the role of experienced veteran as only she and McKayla Yentz returned to the team in Kieger’s second season. Whatever growth and development that we’ve seen in the program over the past three seasons can be attributed, at least on some level, to the guidance and leadership shown by Valentine. She isn’t going into the record books as one of the best players in program history, but not everybody can be. Valentine has always given her best effort when her number was called, and if the rundown of her future plans from Senior Day are any indication, Shantelle’s best days are ahead of her, too.