In what was a fantastic NCAA tournament battle between the #4 seeded home team and the #5 seeded road team, Marquette just didn’t have enough to put the program into the Sweet 16 for the first time ever.
Shambria Washington hit a triple with 23 seconds to go to put Texas A&M up and the #5 seeded Golden Eagles couldn’t answer on the other end, falling by the score of 78-76. The 2018-19 season is now over, one step short of the Sweet 16, and with the end of the season comes the end of the careers for Marquette’s amazing six woman senior class.
Dammit. So close. So many question marks. So many what ifs. But none of it matters in the record book.
I said it at the top: This was a fantastic basketball game, and if you missed it, y’all are gonna regret it forever. It was up and down, both teams were hitting shots both big and small, both sides had women making big plays in big spots. A five point Marquette advantage after one quarter was a little more than wiped out by the Aggies by the time halftime rolled around, but Danielle King scored as time wound down to knot the thing at 37-all.
Things seemed to be flipping around for Marquette in the third quarter as they ripped off a 10-0 run in the span of 102 seconds to take a 50-41 lead with 6:02 left to go. Texas A&M immediately grabbed six of those points right back, and we were right back into the thick of things. Marquette went into the fourth with a two point advantage, 59-57, but after Texas A&M went Full Reverse Creighton and tipped an overshot Natisha Hiedeman baseball pass with two seconds left, MU had a chance to add to their lead..... but Lauren Van Kleunen didn’t take the wide open three shot got on the inbound and MU didn’t get a shot off.
Allazia Blockton burying a triple broke the ice on the fourth quarter, and Marquette led by five. A&M wasn’t going away, not with The 12th Man loud and proud in the stands at Reed Arena. They tied it up at 63-all, and it became call-and-answer. The Golden Eagles would re-take the lead, A&M would tie it back up. Wash, rinse, repeat. TAMU got the lead on a Chennedy Carter triple with 3:43 to go as Marquette found themselves in a spot where they did not score for 3:10 down the stretch. Thankfully, A&M didn’t do much scoring, either, and a bucket by Blockton snapped the streak and knotted it at 74.
Amani Wilborn followed that up with forcing a steal from Carter and getting a foul from N’Dea Jones. Two free throws, bing bing, two point lead with 36 seconds to go. Carter got into the lane and, in a situation where Marquette just needed to defend and rebound, she found Washington wide open for a three-pointer..... and the 28% shooter on the season buried her third long range bomb on four attempts and gave A&M a 77-76 lead.
I mean, I don’t even disagree with the call to leave her open to collapse on Carter, y’know?
But it did cost MU.
That gave Marquette 22 seconds to find literally any shot in the world to win the game. They didn’t find it in the first 14 seconds, so head coach Carolyn Kieger called timeout....... and then they couldn’t inbound it cleanly. Carter, of course, of all people, came up with the steal with five seconds left to go. Marquette had to foul to get the ball back.... but they weren’t even in the bonus yet, and that’s your ballgame.
The box score is littered with great final performances. Natisha Hiedeman racked up 18 points, six rebounds, and seven assists. King had 15/2/4. Wilborn had 9/4/5 and two steals in a foul-hampered 19 minutes off the bench. Van Kleunen had her second straight great NCAA tournament game with 14 points, six rebounds, and two assists. Selena Lott had only five points, but added eight rebounds and four assists.
It just wasn’t enough to counter the contributions of the A&M starting lineup that went the full 40 minutes. Carter was unreal, getting 30 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. At the end of the day, the shot that beat Marquette was emblematic of the entire afternoon. A 28% shooter beat them, and a 33% shooting team knocked in 57% of their long range shots. How do you contend with a team that hates shooting threes and doesn’t shoot them well suddenly crashing them through the net at what amounts to unthinkable rates? That’s what it took to just ever so slightly and barely hold off the Golden Eagles.
Up Next: The offseason, and that sucks.
Marquette will be back next year, but with eight freshmen and none of the six seniors. It’s going to be a wildly different team to watch for the first time in four years, and that’s crazy to think about.
We have to wrap up this recap with the biggest possible Anonymous Eagle THANK YOU to the Marquette seniors: Allazia Blockton, Sandra Dahling, Erika Davenport, Natisha Hiedeman, Danielle King, and Amani Wilborn. Carolyn Kieger essentially started the program over from scratch in their freshman year, and while there were some rough patches to start with, they won a Big East tournament title as sophomores and back-to-back regular season titles as juniors and seniors. It took an absurd amount of time, effort, dedication, and mental fortitude for all of them to push this program into the national prominence that it has enjoyed over the past three years. We thank them for all of it, and want them to know that they will be missed, but never forgotten.