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Toughness Tested: #10 Marquette 93, DePaul 87

The Golden Eagles extended their winning streak to 10 straight after fighting their way through the Blue Demons.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-Creighton vs Marquette
In the starting lineup or off the bench, Allazia Blockton is great.
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s what we know for sure about Sunday’s game: #10 Marquette held off DePaul, winning 93-87 by outscoring the Blue Demons 10-4 over the final 2:14. It was Marquette’s 10th straight win, pushing the Golden Eagles to 10-0 in Big East play while eliminating one of their biggest tests of the second pass through the league schedule. Thanks to the win and thus DePaul’s loss along with Butler’s loss to Seton Hall on Sunday, Marquette now has a four game lead in the loss column in the Big East standings.

As far as anything else goes, I have no idea.

If you just look at the final box score, or look at the final Four Factors, you can get a picture of what happened in the game and why the Golden Eagles won. Marquette overcame a poor outside shooting performance by outshooting DePaul overall from the field and getting a tiny edge in effective field goal percentage as well. MU also forced DePaul out of shooting three-pointers, something they love to do, and only let them get 42% of their shots from out there instead of nearly 50% as they would prefer. Marquette executed on the offensive glass well enough to make their shooting advantage pay off to a greater extent.

But that’s the full game.

The halftime score in this game was 39-27 favoring the Golden Eagles. The second half point totals? 60-54, favoring DePaul. Neither team could hit the broad side of a barn in the first half, and then suddenly nearly everything was falling for both sides after the intermission. Marquette’s major advantage on the offensive glass in the first half (50% of their misses!) essentially evaporated in the second half as DePaul pounded the glass for second chance points to help drive their rally to knot the game at 80 and again at 83. The Golden Eagles had to deal with foul trouble all second half long with Natisha Hiedeman picking up her third foul of the game with barely two minutes gone after halftime and Danielle King fouling out with 7:08 remaining after only picking up one personal foul in the entire first half.

Actually, I want to step out here for a moment and touch on the fouls. Did Marquette have to deal with foul trouble? Yes. King fouled out, Hiedeman was hampered, and Erika Davenport picked up her fourth foul with 8:30 to go. It was a major problem that Carolyn Kieger masterfully guided her team through. But.... well.....

Look, I’m not a “blame the refs” guy. Generally speaking, I believe that they’re calling fouls that they see, and if you’re committing fouls, they’re going to get called correctly. However, when something like what happened in this game happens, I have questions. The first half saw Marquette commit seven personal fouls and DePaul picked up eight. That’s very few fouls, quite honestly! The second half? 12 for Marquette, and 18 for DePaul. Again, I generally believe that the referees are calling what they see. But when I see 15 total fouls in the first half and THIRTY in the second half, my Spider-Sense tingles a bit. That reeks of the game being called wildly differently between the two halves. You want to let them play? Cool. You want to call it tightly? Cool. I don’t care. But you can’t stand there and tell me that the two teams spent 20 minutes (essentially) not fouling and then suddenly got slap happy in the second half. That’s nonsense.

Anyway.

Let’s deal with the actual “recap” aspect of what we’re here for, and we’re going to fast forward to the start of the fourth quarter, with Marquette holding a 68-64 advantage. The Golden Eagles had led by 10 with 5:44 left in the third, and the lead had been 13 back at the 8:52 mark. DePaul was making a major push, and Lexi Held made an emphatic statement to that end when she broke the ice on the final period with a triple. The up and down pace essentially just accelerated all quarter long. Allazia Blockton triggered an and-1 layup to answer Held, but Davenport’s fourth foul allowed DePaul to answer back. King drilled a crucial triple, but committed her fifth foul on what I presume was an illegal screen after coming up with a rebound on the other end as she was away from the ball when it was whistled.

With 6:05 left, Amani Wilborn popped in a second chance layup and Marquette led by seven. The Golden Eagles turned it over on their next possession, though, and Ashton Millender cut the lead to just two. Marquette’s foul problems reared their head here, as the Blue Demons were able to get inside for layups repeatedly and easily. That’s how Kelly Campbell tied the game at 80 with 3:42 to go, but it was a triple from Rebekah Dahlman to answer a three from Selena Lott to knot things up at 83 just 90 seconds later.

That’s when Marquette’s defense started to get the stops they needed. Blockton lured Dahlman into a foul on the next possession for an and-1, and a pair of freebies from Davenport made it 88-83 with 1:14 to go. Maya Stovall missed a layup, but Wilborn turned it over, leading to a Dahlman layup to cut the lead to three. Marquette’s free throw shooting came up big in the final 30 seconds, with Wilborn making up for that turnover with a pair to make the lead five points again, and Natisha Hiedeman split a pair after a Chante Stonewall layup, but that’s all Marquette needed at that point. That made it 91-87 with 11 seconds left, and DePaul was out of time.

None of that properly explains the wildness or speed or whatever you want to call it for that final 10 minutes. It was nuts, and Marquette found the pathway to their 10th Big East win. That’s the important thing.

Blockton led all scorers with 25 points while coming off the bench. It continues to delight me that Kieger insists on trotting out the Blockton injury starting lineup because that lineup is undefeated. While she was a bench player here, Blockton was absolutely ridiculous, going 10-for-14 from the field and nailing down all four of her free throws in 30 minutes. Her six rebounds, one assists, and one block were merely just bonuses. All five core seniors scored at least 14 points in this game, and Erika Davenport tallied yet another double-double on 15 points and 12 rebounds, five of which were on the offensive end.

Up Next: The Golden Eagles will return to the confines of the Al McGuire Center for a pair of weekend games nicely centered around National Marquette Day on Saturday. Georgetown (11-11, 5-6 Big East) comes in on Friday night immediately following the NMD Pep Rally, while Villanova (15-7, 6-5 Big East) comes to town on Sunday afternoon. The Georgetown game will be on FS1 with both Carolyn Kieger and James Howard mic’d up for the game.