Mitchell’s youth movement prevails

In its first home game of the 2008-'09 season, coach Terri Mitchell and her Marquette women's basketball team looked on as the new WNIT Champions banner fell from the rafters of the Al McGuire Center.

Although an NCAA championship banner would be the ideal stadium decoration, a WNIT one will suffice, and Mitchell and her team are now one step closer to defending that title.

"Somebody had said before the game had started, it's kind of like a go-hard or go-home mindset," senior forward Marissa Thrower said. "Give everything we got, leave it all out on the court, no regrets."

Marquette (17-15) did just that as it took care of Butler (20-12) in a second-round game of the WNIT, defeating the Bulldogs 58-49 Monday night at the Al McGuire Center. With the win, the Golden Eagles moved on to the Sweet 16.

Many times you see teams with senior leadership and tournament experience thrive because they've been there before. Not this team. Not if Mitchell's running the show.

All three seniors — Krystal Ellis, Erin Monfre and Thrower — looked on from the bench as the ball was tossed in the air to begin postseason play.

"You're going to see our seniors come off the bench; you're going to see maturity come off the bench," Mitchell said. "It's important that the underclassmen start and that the seniors give us the spark and maturity.

"They're fine with it. They can come off the bench and use their experience to help us build a lead or get it back."

The Golden Eagles have used a number of starting lineups this season, so one more is no surprise.

Junior guard Lauren Thomas-Johnson had not started a game since Dec. 13, but Mitchell has been pleased with her work ethic and gave her the nod. The choice proved to be a wise one.

"I wasn't surprised (to get the start)," Thomas-Johnson said. "Coach Terri is a really good coach and never stopped believing in me. She felt today was the day I could come in and help the team."

Thomas-Johnson came into the game having made just two of her last 32 3-point attempts, but showed confidence from long range in her first post-season appearance. She went 2-for-3 from 3-point range and led the Golden Eagles with 11 points.

"We've been restricting Lauren from three's, but we took the restriction off," Mitchell said. "I told the team to have fun out there, play loose, and I think Lauren more than anyone has benefited from that."

At one point in the second half, Butler used a 17-2 run to cut a large deficit down to one point at 41-40. The Golden Eagles looked lost, turning the ball over possession after possession and needed to halt the Bulldogs onslaught.

Thomas-Johnson, who had already hit one 3-pointer for the game, confidently swished another from the corner to put Marquette up four. On Marquette's next possession, Ellis drained a 3-pointer of her own, and Marquette slowly but surely knocked the Bulldogs out of the WNIT.

"We really don't want to go home," Thomas-Johnson said. "Just before the game we shouted repeat because we want to win the championship again."