Marquette Women’s Basketball: Second half collapse catalyst in 74-63 loss

Sophomore forward Katherine Plouffe finished Saturday's game against Georgia Tech with a double-double scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Photo by Aaron Ledesma/

The Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech (3-0) handed the Marquette women’s basketball team (2-1) its first loss of the season, a 74-63 struggle paced by an intense second half defensive effort from Georgia Tech.

The Yellow Jackets forced the Golden Eagles into 18 turnovers and accumulated 10 offensive rebounds and 10 second-chance points.

The game, which was a one-point battle at the end of the first half (38-37), was marked by the physicality and aggressiveness of Georgia Tech — an energy the Golden Eagles could not match.

Junior forward Sarina Simmons led Marquette with 22 points, nine rebounds, and three assists.

“Our mental focus (broke down),” Simmons said. “In the future we have to come knowing that teams are going try to come out (in the second half) and go after it. We had a breakdown mentally.”

Simmons added that early non-conference games against tough opponents can help the young team to mature before Big East Conference play.

That maturity — or lack thereof — was on display at the Bradley Center on Saturday afternoon as Georgia Tech opened the second half with a full court press.

The Golden Eagles committed eight turnovers in eight minutes — many coming on mistakes after the pressure was already beat.

“It wasn’t so much breaking the press as it was our decision making after it,” coach Terri Mitchell said. “And they took advantage of that and extended that lead in the second half. But I thought we fought hard.”

While Simmons attributed the Yellow Jackets’ big second half to a loss of mental focus by Marquette, Mitchell thought fatigue was a large factor.

The team mainly stuck to its starting five of Simmons, sophomores guard Gabi Minix and forward Katherine Plouffe and freshmen guard Arlesia Morse and forward Apiew Ojulu. All five played at least 28 minutes.

Freshmen reserves center Chelsie Butler and guard Christina Bigica also saw limited action. Two players for the Golden Eagles, Minix and Plouffe played the entire 40 minutes.

“Even though it was a physical game, with timeouts and things, my body is feeling good,” Plouffe said post-game.

However, Mitchell felt the second half collapse could be attributed to this small rotation.

“We were in the right positions defensively, and then they just jumped over us,” she said. “We were boxing out, and then they got after us. They were rotating fresh bodies … I’m hoping a few games up the road we can add to our rotation and we’ll be alright.”

Until then, the Golden Eagles must rely on Simmons, Plouffe and Minix to keep the team from playing catch-up. Simmons led the team with inspired play, and Plouffe recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Yet Minix was frequently absent offensively and deferred to her teammates. Morse was 1-of-10 from the field, including 1-of-8 on 3-pointers.

“(Arlesia) is an excellent shooter. She just wasn’t on (Saturday),” Mitchell said. “But the maturity she has to take now is to say, ‘I’m not hitting that three so instead I’ll take an up fake’ … I think they were still good looks for us. Gabi, if anyone, should’ve shot more.”

Minix only attempted three field goals, all 3-pointers, and finished with eight points, five assists and five turnovers.

“Gabi is going to grow game by game,” Mitchell said. “She’s always thinking about setting her teammates up, and I think in time she will start looking for her shot. That’s something her and I will discuss.”