Women’s basketball loses heartbreaker in WNIT opener

Katherine Plouffe. Photo by Vale Cardenas/ valeria.cardenas@mu.edu

Katherine Plouffe. Photo by Vale Cardenas/ valeria.cardenas@mu.edu

With just over two seconds left on the clock, Marquette had the ball underneath its own basket. Northern Iowa’s Jess McDowell made a put back to give the Panthers the lead. Sarina Simmons inbounded the ball to Brooklyn Pumroy, who got within three feet of the three-point line before shooting the ball. The buzzer sounded, the ball hit the backboard, and the Golden Eagles lost their opening round game of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, 61-59.

“It’s always difficult to end your season (with) a loss,” coach Terri Mitchell said. “But we have no regrets in the way we played. … We did everything in our power, and we lost.”

Marquette made it a game in the second half, as the Golden Eagles erased a 12-point deficit. The Golden Eagles trailed 54-42 with 8:19 to go in the game. Marquette was shooting 31 percent from the field and was just one for six on the half on three pointers. Cue a 15-2 run.

Simmons forced three turnovers during the six-minute run, including one that led to a pull-up jumper. She drained the shot to give Marquette its first lead of the game. Katherine Plouffe was clutch from the free throw line, making all six of her free throws during the run. Apiew Ojulu came off the bench to score four points during the run, and one of her baskets tied the game with 20 seconds left.

Of Marquette’s 59 total points, 34 of them were scored in the paint. The Golden Eagles exploited their size to get the put-backs and make the easy layups. Marquette outrebounded Northern Iowa 39-34, winning the offensive glass 15-11.

The things we said we wanted to do, we did,” Mitchell said. “At the end of the day, you can’t fault a team that fought so hard.”

Northern Iowa won the game with its three point shooting. The Panthers shot a respectable five for 16 in the first half but really took off at the start of the second half. Northern Iowa was shooting 71.4 percent from behind the arc by the 12-minute mark and was 66.7 percent by the eight-minute mark. Overall, the Panthers shot 53.8 percent from behind the three-point line in the second half and were 41.4 percent for the game. That percentage was better than its 38.6 percent field goal percentage for the entire game.

“They’re known for their threes,” Mitchell said. “We were sinking too deep to the ball, and some threes they just stuck right in our face. They’re a team that commits to shooting the three.”

The Golden Eagles only lose Sarina Simmons to graduation. Marquette returns Plouffe, the team’s leading scorer, Morse, the team’s leading three-point shooter, Pumroy, the youngest starter on the team, and Gabi Minix, who tore her ACL early in the year. Mitchell said the team is looking to build off of its success from this season.

“We have to let this motivate us,” Mitchell said. “We’re not going to let this happen again. There is too much talent on this team. We’re going to have a great year.”

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