Toledo couldn’t miss on Thursday night at the McGuire Center. Not in the first quarter, not in the second quarter, not in the third quarter, and not in the fourth quarter either. Shot after shot after shot fell for the visitors, and as such, they took the 92-82 win over Marquette women’s basketball in the third round of the 2022 WNIT. The Rockets advance to the quarterfinals, while the season ends for the Golden Eagles.
Marquette was in trouble from the get go. Three times in the first six minutes of the game, Toledo ran an action in transition where Sophia Wiard penetrated into the lane about to the free throw line, causing the MU defense to retreat to the rim to defend it. That left a Toledo shooter open directly behind Wiard, and she turned and flipped it backwards. Three different shooters at that, all with Wiard dishing it, and all three players knocked down their shot with Wiard screening potential closeouts. Toledo up 19-11 with just under four minutes left in the first quarter, and Megan Duffy had to call timeout to get her team on the same page to defend that action.
They did that for the remainder of the game. I don’t remember another triple off that action hitting again. That’s good. But those early good looks combined with Marquette having to adjust their defense on the fly and mixed with foul trouble for Lauren Van Kleunen and Liza Karlen…… well, it turned into a lot of made shots for Toledo. The Rockets shot 2-for-4 from behind the arc in each of the remaining quarters of the game and never shot worse than 50% from the field in any quarter….. and they only hit 50% in the fourth frame.
Even with that being the case, even with Toledo turning into a walking, talking version of NBA Jam’s “HE’S ON FIRE” mode, Marquette managed to turn this into a game. 19-10 Toledo…. But two free throws from Rose Nkumu tied the game at 22 in the first quarter before a triple at the horn from Wiard put Toledo back out in front by three heading to the second. Toledo got up by as many as 10 at multiple points in the second quarter…. But a Karissa McLaughlin jumper with 41 seconds to play before the half cut the margin to just two and it settled at three at the intermission.
The third quarter was Marquette’s best of the game, which is funny to say because Toledo didn’t miss a single field goal attempt in the first five minutes while building a 64-56 lead. But then: Karlen. Nkumu. Six straight just from Chloe Marotta, who finished with a career best 28 points, and lo and behold, Marquette led 66-64. That 10-0 run turned into 14-2, and the Golden Eagles found themselves up four, 70-66, and that margin held to the start of the fourth quarter.
Jordan King got loose in transition for two of her nine in the game with 9:15 to play, and that put the Golden Eagles up 76-72 with 9:15 to go. Marquette got three straight stops out of the Toledo offense, something that was few and far between, but they couldn’t come up with points of their own…. Including right up until Liza Karlen threw an outlet pass right through King’s hands almost directly to Toledo’s Quinesha Lockett. 12 seconds later, bang, she had three of her game high 37 on the night, and it was a one point game all of a sudden, just as it was starting to feel like Marquette was right on the edge of turning the game in their favor for good.
A jumper by Marotta to take the lead back with 5:01 to play was Marquette’s only bucket for a stretch of six minutes. Van Kleunen came off the bench with four fouls and immediately put two baskets down. Two point game, 2:40 to play. Anybody’s game, at least in terms of potential outcomes.
That was also Marquette’s last points of the game. Lockett got an and-1 to go, drawing the fifth foul from Karlen after Locket was already past her. Five point game. The best shot Marquette could get on their ensuing possession? LVK’s 12th three-point attempt of the season. MU fouled, then took waaaaaay too much time getting a long range look for McLaughlin, the team’s only legitimate three-point threat, and when she missed with 34 seconds to go, that was it. There was more fouling and calling time out, but McLaughlin’s miss was really the capper.
Marotta led Marquette in scoring with that new personal best of 28, and she added five rebounds and four assists for a very nicely well rounded game. McLaughlin and Karlen joined her in double digit town, with each woman getting 16 points. Karlen tacked on 11 rebounds for a double-double, along with three assists, two blocks, and two steals before fouling out in just 25 minutes of action. McLaughlin had a big night elsewhere as well, dishing out a game high eight assists to propel the Golden Eagles to 25 helpers on just 34 baskets.
How about some highlights, such as they are, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and FloHoops?
Up Next: Nothing. Season’s over.
Season’s over, which means that the Marquette careers are over for three women. We have to send out a big Anonymous Eagle THANK YOU to Antwainette Walker for her time in Milwaukee after she took a chance on transferring to MU right after Megan Duffy was hired. Her entire tenure in blue and gold was weird between getting her transfer redshirt season shut down because of COVID, and then having to go through all of the health protocol stuff in her first active season. She pushed through all of that to turn into a regular sparkplug off the bench for the Golden Eagles this season, and that’s pretty cool.
Also pretty cool? Karissa McLaughlin being better than advertised. This wasn’t her most prolific shooting season, as she didn’t quite get to the 7.3 attempts per game that she put up for Purdue in 2019-20, but it was her most accurate season from long range. The Boilermakers’ all-time leader in three-pointers made knocked down over 41% of her attempts for Marquette this year after never clearing 38% in West Lafayette. Even more impressive? She did this while operating as the only long range threat that Marquette had all season long. Maybe this season didn’t go the way she had hoped that it would it go with the Golden Eagles missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016, but it was still great to see her go out on a high note for this squad. Thus, we say THANK YOU to Karissa as well.
And that brings us to Lauren Van Kleunen. We mentioned the weirdness of the last few seasons when talking about Antwainette Walker, but that doesn’t come close to scratching the surface of what the past six years have brought for LVK. First, the season shut down before it started by blood clots in her arm, and the possibility that she might never play for MU. Then two seasons of highly variable results while playing for Carolyn Kieger but contributing to two of the most successful seasons in program history. Then Kieger left for Penn State, and LVK stuck around with Megan Duffy.... and completely revamped her game. She went from listed on the roster as a guard to becoming one of the scariest post presences in the entire Big East.
Along the way over the past three seasons, including this year which was her COVID bonus season of eligibility, Van Kleunen has broken the Marquette record — not women’s hoops, the entire athletic department — for most appearances in a MU uniform. During the Toledo game, she recorded her 800th career rebound, making her the ninth Golden Eagle to ever do that. One of those late fourth quarter buckets? Pushed her to 1,500 career points, the 13th to ever get there, and just the sixth to record both 1,500 points and 800 rebounds.
I use these stats to make this point that I would have made anyway even if she was at 1,499 and 799: Lauren Van Kleunen is a Marquette ICON, all caps there intended and dammit, it’s required, too. It’s been five wonderful years of watching her grow and develop as a player and as a leader for MU. I can’t believe I had to watch it come to an end on Thursday night. I write a lot of these THANK YOUs for the departing Marquette seniors. This has been one of the hardest ones to get through, both in terms of trying to get my emotions out on the page and just literally being able to type it out. Breaks have been needed.
Thank you, Lauren. Thank you so, so much.