A season of rebuilding and self-discovery for the Marquette women’s basketball team ended Saturday in the second round of the Big East Tournament.
At halftime, it appeared that the Golden Eagles had turned the corner, leading No. 23 and sixth-seeded Rutgers 22-16. After the Scarlet Knights rallied to take a 37-36 lead with 6:31 left, Marquette continued to battle, bringing itself within one possession nine times. In the end, however, Rutgers was able to dispatch the Golden Eagles with an 8-0 run to close out the game en route to a 52-43 win.
Sophomore Katherine Plouffe and freshman forward Chelsie Butler combined for 27 points in a strong showing for Marquette’s post, but the backcourt struggled down the stretch. Plouffe was hesitant to assign all the blame to any position in particular, however, attributing the loss to a lack of overall focus in the second half.
“We can’t blame it all on the guards,” Plouffe said. “There’s a lot of things that the team as a whole could’ve done, but we weren’t focused and let them get their lead back and push it out for the rest of the game.”
The opposite was true in Marquette’s first-round 54-51 win over Cincinnati. The third time proved to be the charm for the Golden Eagles as they finally recorded a victory over the Bearcats after dropping both of their regular season matchups.
It was the backcourt that came through for Marquette in the first round as sophomore guard Katie Young and freshman guard Arlesia Morse combined for 33 points with 8 three-pointers between them.
“It just opened up for us because (the Bearcats) were clamping down on our post and giving us shots,” Morse said. “The second game, their guards were denying us, and Rutgers adjusted to how we had played against Cincinnati, knowing that if they shut us down they’d be giving up two points rather than three.”
Marquette has failed to defeat the Scarlet Knights in 10 attempts, but its performance in the tournament had Young feeling that the Golden Eagles had taken a big step in setting a standard for next season.
“It’s hard to come up short after leading for most of the game, and we all thought we should have won that game,” Young said. “We as a program haven’t done well against them historically, but I feel like Rutgers sees us more as a contender that can win that next game we play now.”
The Golden Eagle’s depth in the post was tested all season by injury, and the emergence of Morse and Young helped the team develop a solid overall foundation to build upon the next few seasons. Having spent most of last season injured, Young said this year was a big step for her on a personal level.
“It was important for me to contribute and take pressure off the post with Apiew (Ojulu) and Lauren (Tibbs) getting injured,” Young said. “Coming off an injury I think it’s important to do better than you did before, and I didn’t really have any kind of name for myself during my freshman year, so I feel like this was a big coming-out year for me.”
Plouffe said Marquette’s 2011-’12 campaign fell well short of her expectations but it was a learning experience she believes will make the team stronger in the long run.
“We didn’t want it to be a rebuilding year, but it was one,” Plouffe said. “It wasn’t what we hoped it would be, not having a postseason and with number of games we lost, but it’s reassuring and exciting to know that we put it together towards the end. I feel like how we played at the end is how we’re going to start next season off.”