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NCAA Tournament: #9 Marquette Gets The Horns From #8 South Florida

The Golden Eagles couldn’t score and couldn’t get stops down the stretch against the Bulls

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament - First Round - South Carolina Photo by Tim Cowie/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Marquette women’s basketball never trailed until they did on Friday afternoon, and by then, it was too late. South Florida’s Elena Tsineke sank a free throw line jumper with just 30 seconds left in overtime after MU’s defense fell apart in a microcosm of what happened in this game, and on the other end, Kenzie Hare’s last second three-pointer rimmed out right before the horn. Your NCAA tournament First Round final score: #8 USF 67, #9 Marquette 65. MU’s season comes to an end with a record of 21-11.

We can skip forward to the second half while attempting to reassemble what happened in Columbia, South Carolina. It was a five point lead for Marquette at the end of the first, 16-11, and again at halftime, 32-27. Marquette held USF without a field goal for the first four minutes of the third quarter, but a putback from Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu, cut the margin to just four points anyway. A free throw from Jordan King triggered a 9-2 run by the Golden Eagles capped by a three-pointer from Chloe Marotta, and MU was up 45-34, with 3:18 to play in the quarter. South Florida cut it to seven, Marquette used a timeout, and an and-1 from Fankam Mendjiadeu with seconds left in the quarter meant MU’s lead was effectively halved and they led by just six, 51-45, with 10 minutes to go.

To a certain extent, Marquette lost the game in those three minutes.

Still, MU’s lead was at least four points for most of the fourth quarter, all the way up to a Tsineke bucket with 1:55 to play that cut it to just two, and then another and-1 from Fankam Mendjiadeu put the Bulls out in front with 81 seconds in regulation. Marquette got completely crossed up and ended up throwing the ball away as Liza Karlen couldn’t find a way to throw it to either King or Marotta, and Tsineke cashed a three to make it a four point game with 31 seconds left in the quarter.

Yes, this game went to overtime. Yes, it was stupid, as Tsineke let herself get tied up for a jump ball that went to Marquette, and then Carla Brito ran straight through Kenzie Hare on a screen while Marotta was missing a jumper with five seconds left. Hare hit both, ta-da, overtime.

Karlen fouled out with 3:18 left in overtime, and then Marotta followed quick behind her with 2:56 left. And yet, Emily La Chapell scored on a layup to make it a brand new ballgame with 1:44 to go in the extra session, and she converted the and-1 for a one point lead, 63-62. A minute later, a drive from King led to two free throws, and that put MU out in front again, 65-64. Cue Tsienke’s jumper, cue a missed three by Hare, split freebies from Fankam Mendjiadeu, and one last missed three by Hare at the horn, and that was that.

Season’s over because Marquette’s offense couldn’t do better than 33 points in the final 25 minutes of the game, and the defense couldn’t hold South Florida to less than 40 points in the same time frame. Everything was fine until it wasn’t, and then it ended badly.

Marotta finished with a game high 25 points and added seven rebounds and a steal before fouling out, and she was running wild in the third quarter as USF had no answer for her for long stretches of this game. Jordan King added 16 points, but she got seven of those from the free throw line as she shot just 4-for-21 (19%) from the field while her teammates collectively shot 19-for-49 (39%). Emily La Chapell added 13 points as MU’s only other double digit scorer in her first ever NCAA tournament game, but somehow that goes into the books as a slight disappointment as she had eight in the first quarter alone as she hit a pair of threes in the first 10 minutes.

Up Next: Hopefully an offseason of shooting practice for everyone on the roster, as spacing the floor was a problem for Marquette all season long with today’s 4-for-11 before Hare’s two late attempts at game winners going as one of MU’s better performances of the season.

Marquette honored just one senior player on Senior Day, so this is where we pay tribute to and say THANK YOU to Chloe Marotta. She goes out on her shield, throwing in one of the best performances of the season and that’s objectively without even factoring the win-or-go-home aspects of the day. She has gone from a bit player still recovering from a knee injury in high school in her first year at Marquette, playing for Carolyn Kieger, to one of the most important glue players in the Big East while playing for Megan Duffy, to a legitimate star on the scouting report that has to be accounted for night in and night out. The Marquette legacy forward ends her career with more than 1,000 career points, more than 900 rebounds, and more than 300 assists, making her one of the most across the board productive players to ever pull on the blue and gold.

It has been an absolute delight to watch her pour herself into Marquette basketball over the past five seasons, and it brings me nothing but pain and sadness to finally see her career come to an end. Thank you, Chloe, thank you SO MUCH from Marquette fans everywhere for everything you’ve done for Marquette both on and off the court. We wish you nothing but the best in whatever comes next for you.