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Find A Way To Win: #8 Marquette 59, Georgetown 52

Hey, look, the Hoyas caused Carolyn Kieger’s team absolute fits again. What are the chances?

Amani Wilborn
Amani Wilborn had 12 points and nine assists to guide the Golden Eagles to a win.
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What if I told you that Marquette women’s basketball committed 17 turnovers with 11 of them in the second half, Allazia Blockton scored just nine points, and Natisha Hiedeman was limited to just 23 minutes and scored just two points? What would you say the result of that game was?

If you said a 59-52 victory over the Georgetown Hoyas, I would call you a liar. However, that’s exactly what Marquette did on Friday night to push their overall record to 20-3 and their Big East record to a perfect 11-0. With the win, Marquette’s magic number for a Big East regular season title is now just three.

We have to tip our caps to the Hoyas here. Let’s be honest about what happened in this game. With 3:03 left in the first quarter, Danielle King scored in transition to put Marquette up 11-2. The Golden Eagles had scored seven straight and held the Hoyas scoreless over the previous three minutes. This game was trending towards what Marquette’s average scoring margin on the season is: A 20 point Golden Eagles victory. And then... The Hoyas scored 11 straight to close the quarter and end up leading 13-11 after 10 minutes.

That didn’t tip the game in favor of the Hoyas, but it did appear to lock the Golden Eagles into a battle with Georgetown. It’s worth noting that there was an unexpected twist in the story here, as freshman Nikola Kovacikova banged home two three-pointers in the final 69 seconds of the quarter to provide the pop for the Hoyas. Coming into Friday night’s contest, Kovacikova was shooting 28% from behind the arc, averaging less than two attempts per game, and getting less than 14 minutes of burn. It’ll be a cold day in hell before I blame anyone on the Marquette roster or coaching staff for not taking her particularly seriously on her first two three-point attempts of the game.

Two more buckets from Kovacikova early in the second quarter propelled the Hoyas to a 19-15 lead, but then it was time for a lesser known Golden Eagle to have her time in the sun. Isabelle Spingola fired in back-to-back threes to punch MU to a four point lead of their own, 23-19. Kovacikova would score two more baskets shortly there after, helping to trim Marquette’s lead to just one point, and that’s when Marquette dialed up the defense on her. She had 13 points with 3:46 left in the first half, and then she did not score again. Meanwhile, Amani Wilborn scored late in the frame, and the Golden Eagles went to the locker room with a 27-24 lead.

As is tradition in this game, apparently, the third quarter belonged to the Hoyas. They finished the frame with a 20-17 advantage. It was close and low scoring, so Georgetown never really had a big run in the quarter, maxing out with a 7-1 burst in the back half to take a one point lead, 44-43. They got there with two free throws from Dorothy Adomako with 2:55 left in the frame, but that was the last points they would score in the quarter. Wilborn split a pair of freebies, and we went to the fourth tied at 44.

While Marquette locked up Kovacikova for the final 24 minutes of the game, the same can not be said about the Hoyas and Spingola. Sure, she stayed quiet for a long stretch, but you can make an argument that Marquette won this game because of her. Spingola hit back-to-back threes again here in the fourth, turning that 44 point tie to a 50-44 Marquette advantage. From there, Marquette’s lead never got smaller than three, and a three-pointer from Allazia Blockton with 2:57 left to play punched the lead out to eight and probably counts as the dagger in this one. Don’t get me wrong, Georgetown had a chance after a three by Dionna White made it a five point game with 60 seconds left, but poorly timed fouls by the Hoyas, an offensive rebound by Erika Davenport, and two icy cold free throws by Danielle King wrapped this one up.

Actually, y’know what? It did, but it didn’t. GU head coach James Howard called timeout after those King freebies, and by rule in women’s college hoops, that means the ball advances to be inbounded on Georgetown’s offensive end. 20 seconds left, down 7. It’s not completely insane to think that something wild could happen.... as long as Georgetown runs a play to get a shot immediately after inbounding the ball. And then they didn’t do that. They inbounded and started running their offense and appeared to have zero interest in shooting the ball. It was one of the weirder things I’ve ever seen, and then it got weirder when Marquette started fouling. The Golden Eagles had committed just two personal fouls in the quarter thus far, so they had fouls to burn to disrupt any plans the Hoyas may have had in the closing seconds. Except they didn’t appear to have any plans. It all ended up with Selena Lott getting a steal to end whatever little suspense was remaining.

Along the way here, I didn’t really discuss Natisha Hiedeman even though her play to this point of the season has put her in position to be the front-runner for Big East Player of the Year. As mentioned at the top, she only played 23 minutes, eight of which came in the second half, and she only scored two points, well off her in-league average of 22 per contest coming in. At some point in all of this, Hiedeman appeared to take a notable crack on the head while in the paint in the first half. She ended up being subbed out of the game immediately at that point because the referees had stopped the game because she was down on the floor and holding her head. It did limit her the rest of the way, as her bucket came midway through the first, and then she went 0-for-6 the rest of the way. Hiedeman only took one shot in the second half, and she was in and out of the game. Fine enough to play, not fine enough to be her usual dominant self. We’ll see what happens on Sunday in MU’s next game.

Two players carried a heavy burden for Marquette in this game. Amani Wilborn was a shining star example of how any of MU’s core five seniors can end up taking over a game on any given night. The 2017 Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player finished with 12 points, four rebounds, and a game high nine assists. In such a low scoring game, finding nine open teammates can have a major impact on the contest. The other major player was Erika Davenport. She didn’t score much, tallying six points on 3-of-9 shooting. Her three assists were rather important as she only averages barely over one per game this season. The big story, though, was her season high 23 rebounds, falling three short of Katherine Plouffe’s single game record. Eight of Davenport’s rebounds came on the offensive end of the floor as the Golden Eagles had 13 as a team to post a game-long offensive rebounding rate of over 43%. When you’re not shooting the ball well over all (49% effective field goal percentage) and you’re turning the ball over way too much (27% of possessions), extending possessions with offensive rebounds is a major key to how to win a game, and that’s almost all due to Davenport wrecking shop.

How about some highlights, courtesy of FS1 and GoMarquette.com? I do want to point out that this was an All-Access game on FS1, so you’re going to get inset boxes with both head coaches all the way through, as they were both mic’d up. I highly encourage you to catch the segment in the Marquette locker room at halftime, because it’s incredibly important to see Carolyn Kieger make sure to keep track of the team’s swag levels during a game.

Up Next: Villanova rolls in the McGuire Center on Sunday afternoon. The Wildcats are coming off a 93-70 loss to DePaul on Friday night, which snapped a four game winning streak for them. I’m warning you now, if you thought this Georgetown game was slow paced at 63 possessions, well, Harry Perretta and the Wildcats are gonna try and beat that.