First: Marquette went 2-1 in the tournament, winning their first two games over 1) #3 Texas and 2) a Gonzaga squad that was receiving votes in the top 25 poll to get to the title game. This was a tournament that because of the way it was bracketed, there was no way that Marquette should have gotten to the title game. In theory, even after figuring out a way to beat Texas, that should have given them a game against #6 Louisville, but the Zags knocked that potential roadblock out of the way. A bit of luck and a lot of hard work got MU to the point where they could lose in overtime to the #20 team in the country, and that has to be said out loud repeatedly.
Second: Marquette probably should have beaten the #20 team in the country while playing their third game in three days with a constantly decreasing amount of time off between games! They held UCLA to a 37% effective field goal percentage in the contest, largely because the Bruins couldn’t hit the broad side of a battleship from behind the three-point line, connecting just three times in 18 attempts across 45 minutes. MU prompted the Bruins into coughing it up 16 times, which meant 21% of their possessions in the game. This was right there for them, even running on fumes from all of the running back and forth between their hotel rooms and the ballroom arena.
And that’s the big thing about this game: It was always right there for Marquette to win. In fact, somewhat/largely because of UCLA’s awful three-point shooting, the Golden Eagles were in control of the game on the scoreboard for most of the second quarter. The first frame was very close and very slow scoring with a Liza Karlen three putting MU up 11-8 after 10 minutes. Things picked up in the second in terms of scoring pace, but Claire Kaifes drained a triple of her own to start the 2nd quarter scoring and to put MU up six, and with 7:58 to go, another Karlen three put the Golden Eagles ahead 19-12. Four minutes later, the margin was still at seven, 25-18, after Kenzie Hare sank a pair of free throws.
And then the Bruins ended the period on a 9-2 run to tie it at 27 heading to the locker rooms.
UCLA found a way to go up five in the middle of the third, but a three from Hare and a bucket from Chloe Marotta immediately wiped that out. The two sides traded buckets the rest of the way in the period and with 10 minutes to go, it was tied again, this time at 44.
It’s probably time to point out that Marquette was not playing well on offense in this game. They did outshoot the Bruins in this game, putting up an actually not good but only good compared to UCLA eFG of 43%, but the Golden Eagles turned it over on 32% of their possessions as well. In a hyper-low scoring fourth quarter where both teams scored just nine points each, Marquette committed three of their 24 turnovers in the game. Two of them came in the final three minutes of regulation, one with the game tied at 51 and the other with UCLA up 53-51. Who knows what happens if the Golden Eagles even score on just one of those…..
But it was Marotta who pushed the game to overtime, scoring this bucket with just 15 seconds to go:
UCLA obviously had a chance to win it on the final possession, but even though they got to the rim, they didn’t get off any good chances. That’s even with three tries at it, thanks to two offensive rebounds. We should mention that, right? Of all of the things about this game that will probably poke at head coach Megan Duffy’s brain for weeks on end, it’s probably UCLA’s offensive rebounding. By the time it was done, the Bruins had pulled in 18 of their own misses, which is 38.3% of them. With the way that Duffy runs her outfit, that’s a fatal flaw for the Golden Eagles, and that’s how you lose an overtime game.
The other fatal flaw is those turnovers that we mentioned a minute ago. UCLA had the ball first in overtime and they scored on their first possession. Nothing wrong with that, that’s just basketball. Marquette, on the other hand, coughed up the ball on their first two possessions and three of their first four. That’s five turnovers in just barely over five minutes of action, and not just any action, but some of the highest leverage action in the entire game.
Kiki Rice swiped a bad pass on the third one in overtime and put the easy bucket up and in, Bruins by five, 2:20 to go. Hare drew a foul on the ensuing possession, but missed both free throws, Camryn Brown got to the rack on the other end, UCLA up seven with under two minutes left, there’s your ball game. I mean, okay, yes, Marquette still had a chance when Charisma Osborne committed an offensive foul with 53 seconds to go and MU down two, but the whole thing had gone flying off the rails at that point.
But it’s fine! House money game! Didn’t matter! Ridiculously great weekend in the Bahamas! That arguably makes the loss a teeeeeeeeny bit more frustrating, but I’m going to choose to not pay attention to that.
Chloe Marotta led MU in scoring here with 15 points as four Golden Eagles managed to get into double digits. She also added five rebounds and two assists to her day. Liza Karlen led MU with eight rebounds to go with her 12 points, while Rose Nkumu had three assists to lead the Golden Eagles in that column. Jordan King got to 10 points, but she did it on 4-for-11 shooting and fouled out right at the start of overtime.
Up Next: Marquette will take the rest of the week off for Thanksgiving before reconvening at the McGuire Center for a Sunday afternoon clash with Saint Francis. This is the Red Flash from Pennsylvania and they are 0-4 on the year so far. They will play at Morgan State and at Loyola Chicago before coming to Milwaukee on Sunday.