Marquette entered Friday night with a chance to lock up the #1 seed in the Big East tournament and a share of the regular season championship.
They exited Friday night in the same manner.
Butler outscored the Golden Eagles 18-8 in the final quarter and 7-2 in the final 2:06 alone in order to hand Marquette a 61-57 loss at the McGuire Center. Marquette is now 13-2 in Big East play and 22-5 overall, while the Bulldogs move to 10-5 and 20-6 overall.
The most confounding part about what happened in this game is how Marquette let what appeared to be a massive advantage go to waste. Through the first 10 minutes, the action was tied at 19 apiece. However, Butler had jumped out to a 6-0 lead to start the game, so Marquette had closed the quarter on a 19-13 clip. That was largely due to the fact that the Golden Eagles knocked down five of their nine three-point attempts in the first quarter, firing away over the Butler 2-3 zone defense and seemingly rendering it pointless.
That shooting advantage wouldn’t last, as MU went 1-for-8 from long range in the second quarter, and missed their first seven attempts at that. That final attempt, though, coming from Natisha Hiedeman, that one went down, and Marquette went into the half with a 34-30 advantage. Things were generally favoring the Golden Eagles at that point, and while the zone seemed to be frustrating them a little bit, it seemed that they had a handle on things.
Then the second half began..... and Marquette would make just one more three-pointer for the entire rest of the game. It came from Danielle King, late in the third quarter as part of a 7-0 run that left Marquette up 49-43 heading to the fourth quarter. The ability to fire away over the top of the zone was essentially dead and gone at this point, both because the shots weren’t falling and because Marquette just never seemed to be looking to let loose. Still, though, a six point lead is better than the four point lead at the half.
King scored in transition to break the ice on the fourth quarter more than a minute in, and the lead was eight, MU’s best margin of the game. It seemed that they just might have Butler on the ropes...... and then Butler wiped it all out. Marquette wouldn’t score again for another 5:20, and by that time, the jumper from Allazia Blockton only pulled Marquette within one of Butler. The Bulldogs had ripped off an 11-0 run and had completely flipped the game upside down.
Lauren Van Kleunen, who ended up coming up huge for Marquette (more on this in a moment), canned a pair of freebies to give Marquette a lead for a moment, and then Selena Lott came up with a steal and a rare in this game fast break bucket for the Golden Eagles. That came off an offensive rebound for the Bulldogs with 51 seconds left after Marquette had turned the ball over. It seemed like a massive turning point in the game.
But Tori Schickel answered with 36 seconds left, and Blockton missed pretty much the same jumper she had made just a little while earlier.... and Butler was able to hold on from there. Marquette had a chance to tie with time expiring, but Natisha Hiedeman’s three-point try was wild and off the mark, and that was that.
As mentioned, Van Kleunen made a major impact on this game. She finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks, and two steals. Her blocks were part of an overall performance on defense where she near-constantly befuddled Schickel in the post. This was particularly important on this night for two reasons. One: Marquette needed someone to do something with Schickel, who finished with 19 points on 9-of-19 shooting along with seven rebounds. Two: Erika Davenport fell to the ground in a heap following a missed shot early in the third quarter, and immediately started screaming in pain. The game didn’t stop immediately, and in fact it took Amani Wilborn blocking a shot out of bounds to get a stoppage. The point is that Davenport’s screams were audible over the game noise, or they were at least for me in my seat about 25 feet away. When play stopped and the game noise stopped, they were audible to the entire building. Davenport ended up in a heap in nearly the exact same spot back on February 10th against Villanova, but she seemed to be much worse off this time around. After the training staff assessed what was going on (and Davenport reached out and grabbed the trainer’s hand to get her to stop squeezing her left knee at one point), two of the managers carried her to the back. Quite obviously, she did not return, and her status for Sunday’s Senior Day game against Xavier is doubtful at best at this point.
Blockton ended up leading Marquette in scoring on the night with 14 points. Her 6-for-14 performance was bolstered with two three-pointers, so that’s fine. The 1-for-13 from Natisha Hiedeman? Not fine. At least Hiedeman made up for it with eight rebounds and a team high six assists.
How about some highlights, such as they are, courtesy of the Big East Digital Network and GoMarquette.com?
Up Next: As mentioned, Marquette returns to action on Sunday afternoon against Xavier. The Golden Eagles can still lock up the #1 seed and a share of the Big East title with a win over the Musketeers, so they’ll presumably be motivated to capture what they missed out on in this game. Xavier is coming off of an 81-48 loss to DePaul on Friday night, and has now lost five straight games.