Women’s basketball fall short of upset against No. 7 Oregon State

MU held a lead for nearly 20 minutes

Photo+by+Doug+Peters%2Fdouglas.peters%40marquette.edu

Photo by Doug Peters

Photo by Doug Peters/douglas.peters@marquette.edu

Andrew Goldstein, andrew.goldstein@mu.edu

For a few minutes on Thursday, Dec. 3, the Marquette women’s team looked like they were about to turn the college basketball universe on its head.

The Golden Eagles gave No. 7  Oregon State all they could handle, holding the lead for nearly 20 minutes of regulation. Even though Oregon State ultimately prevailed by a final score of 65-58, Marquette head coach Carolyn Kieger spoke as though her team won the NCAA title.

“I’ve never been as proud of a group as I am right now of this team,” an exhuberant Kieger said after the game. “We are learning at a very high pace and we’re retaining information and we’re literally getting better on a daily basis.”

Kieger’s young team offered its second year head coach a lot to be proud of. Marquette held the undefeated Beavers, who had been averaging over 80 points per game, to only 25 first-half points on 11-of-28 shooting. The Golden Eagles also excelled at not fouling – they avoided sending the Beavers to the line until there was less than two minutes left in the second quarter.

Marquette also played the Beavers to a 22-22 draw on the boards, which would be fairly pedestrian were it not for the disparity between the median height of Marquette’s roster (6-foot) and the median height of Oregon State’s roster (6-foot-3). Competitiveness on the boards was a big reason why Marquette was able to hold on to a 30-25 lead at halftime.

The Golden Eagles built upon their first half successes with an 8-2 run near the beginning of the third quarter to go up 40-30 and force Oregon State to call an early timeout. That was punctuated by a satin-smooth layup from freshman guard Allazia Blockton, who was repeatedly able to create her own shot off the dribble against a highly regarded Oregon State defense. She finished with a team-high 21 points.

“(My shooting) opens up the floor for my other teammates,” Blockton said. “I think stretching the floor with me being able to create my own shot is a strength.”

It wasn’t too long before Oregon State edged their way back into the game, though. The Beavers, who had been victimized by careless ball handling that led to 14 first-half giveaways, only turned the ball over five more times in the last two quarters.

More importantly, the Beavers started to dominate the glass, out-rebounding the Golden Eagles nearly two to one in the latter half of the game. Senior center Ruth Hamblin was an especially destructive inside force, grabbing 7 rebounds and blocking 7 Marquette shots.

“She’s (6-foot-6), so you’ve got to displace her,” Kieger said of Hamblin, the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. “In the first half they got four offensive rebounds and in the second half they got 18, so that was the difference in the ballgame.”

Domination in the paint soon turned into domination on the scoreboard for the Beavers, who went on a 13-2 run that took up approximately half the third quarter to take a 45-44 lead in the quarter’s waning minutes. Even though Marquette hung tough and even tied the game with six minutes to go, the Golden Eagles were never able to re-take the lead after their offense stagnated for much of the second half. Marquette stayed within five points of the lead until the final 90 seconds, when free throws from Oregon State guard Jamie Weisner sealed victory for her team.

Even though the Golden Eagles fell short of the upset, Kieger praised her team’s effort and resilience, especially on defense.

“Obviously we have things to fix….and we’ll fix those things, but I told them in the locker room that this has got to be a confidence booster. This has got to be something to propel us instead of dropping our heads. There’s nothing to drop your heads about when you hold a team to 20 points under their average.”

Weisner came into this game averaging over 20 points per game, and she stayed true to form by scoring 26 points. Hamblin also chipped in 17 points.

Marquette plays the second game of its three-game home stand on Sunday at 2 p.m. against in-state rival Wisconsin, which is coming off a 64-51 win against Wake Forest. The Golden Eagles will be eager to avenge the 89-64 thrashing they suffered at the Kohl Center last year, and they may well do so if they play like they did against Oregon State.

“I think we shocked a lot of people,” Blockton said. “Our confidence is definitely boosted for the game on Sunday. Nobody thought we could stay that close to (Oregon State) let alone be up (on them), so I’m proud of my team and how we played.”