Kieger paces squad in opening win

Ryan Nilsson

B) What a great game to start the season with. The 822 people in attendance at U.S. Cellular Arena were kept glued to the edge of their seats as the lead changed hands six times, and the score was tied five times, in the second half.

C) The excitement was not necessary. At halftime the Golden Eagles had a 30-20 lead and had never trailed in the game.

D) By erasing a four-point deficit with 1:26 left in the game, the team proved it has the intestinal fortitude to overcome tough obstacles.

Of course the correct response is E) All of the above; However, after defeating the Drake Bulldogs, 60-57, Saturday, Marquette head coach Terri Mitchell was quick to talk about the accuracy of that answer.

“I think today was a character check,” she said. “When you are down four with two minutes to go it shows what you’re made of.

“For me our confidence is built on defense even though we want to do our best offensively I’d rather preach, ‘Get it done on defense.’ When we got those two stops we relaxed on offense and were able to get a big shot.”

Mitchell was talking about her team’s success at the end of the game, but she just as easily could have been referring to the beginning.

Marquette’s trapping defense held the Bulldogs, who were playing their first game under new head coach Amy Stephens, to 1-for-5 shooting and forced two turnovers in the game’s first four minutes. That created chances on the offensive end and allowed the Golden Eagles to jump out to an 8-2 lead. Five of the eight points came from free throws.

The opening minutes of the first period served as a microcosm for the half as a whole. Marquette forced Drake into 11 turnovers and held them to 32.3 percent shooting from the floor, including 0-for-10 from behind the three-point arc.

At the other end of the court Marquette was not shooting much better from the floor, but it did not matter because the Bulldogs continued to foul.

Drake committed 11 personal fouls in the first half and Marquette made 15-of-18 free throw attempts. That accounted for half of the team’s points at the end of the first period.

In the second half things changed dramatically.

“I think they made some great adjustments at halftime against our zone,” Mitchell said. “We had to get out of our zone more than I wanted to. They adjusted to our short corner trap and got some things inside.

“We had to be on top of our game to see what kind of adjustments they made. They got some quick scores and we stayed with man a little bit more.”

Drake’s adjustments allowed the Bulldogs to take the lead for the first time at 7:59 of the half on a free throw by Linda Sayavongchanh. The sophomore point guard scored 12 points in the game, tying her with Jill Martin and Erin Dohrmann for the team lead.

Kieger led all scorers with 15 points and recorded many of them at key junctures down the stretch.

With 12:20 to play, Drake’s Allison Burchill hit a 3-pointer, ending the team’s drought from behind the arc. It trimmed Marquette’s lead to one, 34-33. On the next possession Kieger used a screen to drive to the basket and sink a lay-up.

Three minutes later Kieger answered again. Following a fast break lay up by Sayavongchanh to tie the score at 37-37, Kieger hit a two-point basket to give her team the lead. In the end, both of those shots paled in comparison to her late game heroics.

With Marquette trailing by two with less than a minute to play, the sophomore made her first free throw, missed her second, got her own rebound and then scored to put the Golden Eagles ahead, 58-57.

She sealed the victory by making both of her free throws with eight seconds left in the game.

“I want the ball in my hand when it comes down to it,” Kieger said.” I think what helped me (was) this week we had a scrimmage in practice and I was fouled at the end of the game to win it and I actually missed both of my free throws so maybe I was getting (the misses) all out then.”

Following the game Danielle Kamm, who started alongside fellow freshman Christian Quaye, summarized the victory.

“It was a good win and it got a lot of jitters out,” Kamm said.” It was great that it was a close game down to the wire.”