Marquette earned its sixth and final victory in the Big East regular season Monday night with a 69-63 overtime victory over Cincinnati.
Coach Terri Mitchell said this game was vital if the team is to forget the month of February, in which it went 1-6 and ended it on a five-game losing streak.
“I love that our players went into overtime tonight and they weren’t deflated,” Mitchell said. “Instead, we just kept encouraging each other and said it would be our game.”
The Golden Eagles were led on offense by senior guard Lauren Thomas-Johnson, who finished with 17 points, 10 of which came in overtime.
Thomas-Johnson said the difference for her between overtime and the first two halves was her shot selection. In the first half she settled for too many 3-point field goals and didn’t drive to the basket enough. In overtime she went to the foul line twice (4-for-4) thanks to her new mindset.
Thomas-Johnson wasn’t the lone double digit scorer Monday, junior forward Paige Fiedorowicz and sophomore forward Jessica Pachko chipped in 13 points each. Fiedorowicz was the only player with double-digit rebounds (11) for Marquette.
Fiedorowicz led Marquette at the half with 11 points but failed to keep the offensive production up in the second half.
“In the first half, coach was really adamant about doing high-low, and I was able to get defenders one on one,” Fiedorowicz said. “My teammates were finding me and kept giving it to me.”
In the second half and overtime, Fiedorowicz said the team found the hot scorer in Thomas-Johnson and started to go to her for its offense instead.
With 4:05 left in the game the Golden Eagles were up 57-51 after junior guard Tatiyiana McMorris and Pachko hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions. Marquette went scoreless the rest of regulation.
During Marquette’s scoring drought, Cincinnati went 2-for-4 from the free throw line and scratched its way back with a jumper from guard Kahla Roudebush, who had 22 points in the game, and a layup from guard Shareese Ulis with 4.6 seconds left to overcome the six-point deficit.
Just as they did in the last four minutes of regulation, the Golden Eagles had offensive struggles in the opening stages of the game against Cincinnati’s zone defense, which it played most of the first half. With 11:30 left in the first half, Marquette had hit only 25 percent of its field goal attempts (3-of-12). At that point the Bearcats were up only 12-9.
Mitchell said the team’s early first half offensive struggles against the zone were related to a number of factors.
“When we’re successful, we’re utilizing low and high post,” Mitchell said. “When we’re not successful, we’re trying to create too much on our own.”
With the victory the Golden Eagles finished tied for 10th place in the Big East Conference and earned a first-round matchup with Villanova in the Big East Tournament which begins Friday.