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Marquette Closes Out The Regular Season By Closing Out St. John’s

The Golden Eagles made the plays they needed to make down the stretch to beat the Red Storm.

Lauren Van Kleunen
Lauren Van Kleunen’s play down the stretch made a big difference for the Golden Eagles.
Marquette University

It maybe wasn’t the best game for Marquette women’s basketball from start to finish, but there were more than enough bright spots for Megan Duffy’s team on Sunday afternoon at the McGuire Center. The Golden Eagles rallied from down seven in the first quarter and held off a late charge to take the 79-75 victory over the visiting St. John’s Red Storm. Marquette is now 20-9 on the year and they wrap up the regular season with a 13-7 mark in Big East play. That has earned them the #5 seed in the Big East tournament which starts later this week.

But back to the game at hand.

Three-pointers from Camree Clegg and Danielle Cosgrove on SJU’s first two possessions of the game cracked the thing open for them and before you knew it, they were up 10-4 right out of the gate. MU quickly responded to tie it at 12 each, but two free throws from Kadaja Bailey capped a 9-2 St. John’s run and left the visitors up 21-14 after less than nine minutes had wound off the clock.

Definitely not the start you wanted to see, and definitely not the start that Duffy would be expecting from her team.

Liza Karlen scored at the horn to make it just a four point game heading to the second, and that started off a 15-3 run for the Golden Eagles that sucked up the first five minutes of the period. It was very much a “everything is going 100% right for Marquette while everything is going 100% wrong for St. John’s” situation. Shots went in left, right, and center for the Golden Eagles while the Red Storm looked like they had just gotten out of bed and were being asked to do complex astrophysics equations while also playing basketball. It was so good for MU/bad for SJU that I wondered aloud to no one in particular why St. John’s head coach Joe Tartamella was refusing to call timeout.

This position was reinforced when Marquette pushed the margin out to eight points, 37-29, with 3:42 to play in the period and he finally did call time out. I suspect that might have more to do with the fact that he never got the media timeout after the five minute mark than anything else, but SJU was in trouble long before the six minute mark, so I don’t know what the hold up was.

A free throw from Antwainette Walker — who had a great game on her Senior Day with five points, five rebounds, three assists, and three steals — made it a nine point game, 42-33, with 1:55 left in the half. That’s great news for Marquette, but the final 1:21 of the half was not. St. John’s scored seven straight to close the period, including a three-pointer from Leilani Correa with eight seconds left, and even though Marquette had dominated the majority of the quarter, they were only up two at intermission.

Those seven straight turned into 10 straight as the Johnnies got the first three points coming out of the locker room. Jordan King picked Clegg’s pocket for a steal and a bucket in transition to take the lead back for Marquette, and the game turned into something of a standoff for a while. MU held the lead, but it never got bigger than three points, and neither team scored for nearly four minutes of the quarter as well. Karlen and Bailey traded buckets in the final 40 seconds, so it was 52-49 Marquette heading to the fourth.

Speaking of great performances on Senior Day, Marquette got two of them in the fourth quarter. Van Kleunen would tally 10 of her game high 22 points in the final frame, and she dished two assists along the way as well. Karissa McLaughlin matched LVK in the points department in the fourth, and added an assist of her own as well, as MU’s two players on COVID bonus years used their veteran mettle to close this game out.

I wanted to make that point before I get into the nitty gritty of what happened, because the fourth quarter was highly dramatic. Part of the drama stemmed from Marquette taking a nine point lead, 58-49, on a Karlen bucket with 7:50 to go. But, with 2:55 to play, Correa scored for the Johnnies to knot the thing at 65.

The two sides traded punches, and Bailey took advantage of Chloe Marotta’s four fouls to drive at her and score to tie the thing at 69 with 1:51 to play. Anyone’s ball game, clearly.

Marquette went to McLaughlin on the next trip down the floor, and the Purdue grad transfer slipped between defenders to put a floater up and in. Marquette needed a stop on the other end, and Bailey handed it to them when she crashed into Jordan King. Live, it looked like the whistle was because Bailey’s shoulder caught King in the trachea, immediately sending her bending over and grabbing her throat. On the replay on FloHoops? Bailey just runs straight into her to set a screen for the most blatantly obvious moving screen call you’ve ever seen in your life.

On the other end, Marquette worked it around to Van Kleunen, who caught it on the left baseline. She’s more than comfortable shooting it from there, but MU’s super senior made the smart play with a line to the rim available to her: She drove it straight at Rayven Peeples and her four fouls. LVK got the absolute best case scenario: The easy layup but also the foul from Peeples. Marquette by four, because she missed the freebie, but Peeples fouling out was almost as valuable. Karlen came up with the offensive rebound off the miss, and MU went right back to Van Kleunen, this time in the post. She worked Danielle Cosgrove out of position with a pivot, laid it up and in, and trotted back down the court while giving the McGuire Center crowd the universal “she’s too little to guard me” sign.

Iconic moment, somewhat helped out by Tartamella calling timeout to advance the ball with 32 seconds to play and Marquette up six, 75-69.

St. John’s had two more Correa three-pointers in their back pocket to make this game interesting all the way to the wire, but Marquette had the timeouts they needed to advance the ball once and get two free throws from Jordan King and then a quick inbound after the second Correa three forced the Johnnies to chase down Karissa McLaughlin for a foul, and she made both.

79-75, Marquette, and because the Golden Eagles had a foul to give, McLaughlin gave it with nine seconds to go inside the arc to force the Red Storm to reset and try a desperation play. They got it, a corner three from Bailey, and Joe Tartamella reaaaaaaally thought that Chloe Marotta picked up her fifth foul while blocking the shot, but either A) he was wrong or B) the refs aren’t giving you that call with that little contact with seconds left on a play that won’t decide the game anyway.

Marquette wins, is the point of the story.

Van Kleunen’s 22 matched Correa and Bailey for the game high, and she added four rebounds and three assists to her day. McLaughlin finished with 19 points, two rebounds, and three assists. Liza Karlen was ridiculous, and not just for chasing down that late offensive rebound after LVK’s free throw miss. The sophomore finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds for her sixth career double-double, six assists, three blocks, and a steal. Jordan King matched her for the game high in assists while adding eight points, three rebounds, and four steals, most of which were of the “yes, this is mine now, you weren’t paying attention” variety.

How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and FloSports?

Up Next: The Big East tournament bracket is not 100% set in stone yet, not until Tuesday’s Xavier/Seton Hall game is decided. But that’s only going to determine the #9 and #10 seed. We already know that Marquette is the #5 seed. That gives them a quarterfinal matchup against #4 DePaul. That game will be on Saturday, March 5th, at the Mohegan Sun Arena at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. Tipoff is scheduled for 1:30pm Central time, although “30 minutes after UConn’s game ends” is also a possible start time, and FS2 will carry the broadcast.