A joint decision by Golden Eagles head coach Terri Mitchell and the teams leading scorer, Krystal Ellis, resulted in the star opening tonight's game against Cincinnati on the bench.
It was a decision that nearly cost Marquette the game. But the Golden Eagles fought their way back from 19 point deficit to beat the Bearcats 72-65.
The two teams exchanged leads in the opening minutes until a three-pointer by Cincinnati forward Jill Stephens sparked a 19-3 Bearcats run, putting them up 31-13.
This would be the story for the remainder of the first half as the Bearcats left for the locker room up 43-27.
"We just started off not playing well," Mitchell said. "And they took huge advantage of it and jumped all over us."
Marquette's defense appeared lifeless as Cincinnati shot an astounding 66.7 percent from the field.
This is the same Bearcats team that lost its last seven games. The same team that shot only 31.4 percent in conference games this season. And the same team that scraped together a 1-8 record in Big East play.
Things then went from bad to worse for the Golden Eagles as Cincinnati guard Kahla Roudebush sank her third three of the game on her team's first possession. Two free throws later and the Bearcats were up by 19, their largest lead of the night.
But Marquette refused to give up as they quickly put up 13 unanswered points bringing the Golden Eagles within five. Soon after that, freshman forward Paige Fiedorowicz—who missed Saturday's loss against St. John's with a sprained ankle—tied it up while also drawing the foul. After making the free throw, Marquette enjoyed its first lead since the score was 2-0.
"We just had to listen to the coaches," freshman guard Angel Robinson said. "They kept telling us to contest and keep our hands up. And we did for like the first five minutes in the first half and then we just stopped. Second half we started contesting and it worked."
With 51 seconds left in the game, and Marquette up by three, Golden Eagles guard Janelle Harris went to the line after being fouled on a baseline jumper. Cincinnati head coach J. Kelly Hall, apparently dissatisfied with the call, was whistled for a technical foul.
This was the nail in the coffin for the Bearcats as the Golden Eagles sank all four foul shots to take a 70-63 lead. A lead which would never be surrendered as Marquette went on to claim the 72-65 win.
Robinson finished with 20 points, eight assists and three steals, while Ellis and Harris added 11 and nine respectively.
"I thought it was a game of two halves," Cincinnati head coach J. Kelly Hall said. "First half we executed, we defended, we did what we were supposed to do. Second half we got into a little bit of foul trouble and had to go to our bench. They didn't get done what we wanted and allowed Marquette to get back in it."
According to Hall, depth was an issue all season for the Bearcats. So much so, that coach Hall didn't pull any of his starters until there was 4:01 left in the first half.
While depth doesn't appear to be an issue with the Golden Eagles, the team is not without its weaknesses. After all, a close, come from behind win against the bottom feeder of the Big East leaves a lot to be desired.
"How we played in the second half is how we'll start with Syracuse on Sunday," Mitchell said. "I hope that momentum is propelling us. If we play like we did in the second half with any team, I really believe we'll have a chance."