Women’s basketball splits weekend road trip

Could seal first-round BIG EAST bye with win against DePaul


Davenport led Marquette in scoring in both games this weekend (Photo by Ben Erickson/benjamin.a.erickson@mu.edu)

Last year, Marquette managed just four wins in BIG EAST play in its worst season in over 20 years. One year later, they have guaranteed themselves at least a .500 conference record.

The Golden Eagles (14-14, 9-8 Big East) split their final two road games of the regular season this weekend. They opened with a tough 83-81 loss to the Creighton Blue Jays (13-15, 7-9 Big East), but bounced back to defeat the Providence Friars (5-20, 1-14 Big East) by a final of 92-85.

Even though the Golden Eagles have outperformed expectations this year, there are a handful of games they would probably like to have back. Their first game of the weekend against Creighton falls squarely in that category. Marquette struggled at the free throw line, shooting only 11-of-20. The Golden Eagles also shot only a little above 32 percent from the field in the first half.

Those two factors, along with some flaky perimeter defense, weighed Marquette down early in the game. Creighton was far more efficient in the opening half, shooting just below 50 percent from the field. The Blue Jays led for almost 18 of the contest’s first 20 minutes and took a 38-31 advantage into the locker room at halftime.

That lead would not be safe for long. The Golden Eagles tore off a 14-0 run in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the third quarter. Junior guard McKayla Yentz catalyzed the run by knocking down a pair of three-pointers, which also served as her only threes of the day. Another three-pointer by freshman guard Danielle King punctuated the streak and gave Marquette a nine-point lead, its biggest of the day.

Creighton refused to be cowed by Marquette’s newfound energy. Instead, the Blue Jays counterpunched with a 10-0 run of their own that took just under five minutes to complete. During that stretch, Marquette missed seven shots and turned the ball over three times. The Golden Eagles were able to snap out of it by the end of the third quarter, but their lead had evaporated and Creighton clung to a 59-57 advantage.

The final quarter was the opposite of the one before it in terms of momentum. Neither side was able to score more than five points in a row. Still, it seemed like Marquette had broken through after a layup from King, who had 15 points, gave the Golden Eagles a 70-69 lead with just under half the quarter gone. In fact, it was the last time all day the Golden Eagles led.

Defensive lapses have doomed Marquette all season long, and they did so once again against the Jays. Eighteen seconds after King’s layup, Creighton guard Lauren Works drained the last of her six three-pointers on the day to put the Blue Jays back up. After Marquette freshman Allazia Blockton made a free throw to tie the game at 74 with less than two minutes to go, Works assumed control of the game once again. She received a pass, drove to the hoop, got a tough layup to fall and drew the foul from Marquette’s Natisha Hiedeman. The junior buried her free throw to extend Creighton’s lead back to three.

Marquette’s last chance to steal the victory came right at the end of the game. Freshman guard Amani Wilborn sprinted down the court and made a layup to cut Creighton’s lead to two points with five seconds left. Hiedeman  intercepted the ensuing inbounds pass from Creighton forward Audrey Faber and flashed toward the hoop. It was all for naught, as Hiedeman’s layup attempt rimmed out and the Blue Jays hung on to an 83-81 lead.

Freshman forward Erika Davenport lead Marquette in scoring with 19 points on 8-11 from the field. Blockton also contributed 12 points and 11 boards for her 11th double-double of the season.

Works was Creighton’s leading scorer with 23 points. Faber also had a good day aside from her errant inbounds pass, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

As bad as things may have seemed against Creighton, the Golden Eagles faced a much bigger disaster against the Providence Friars. The Friars have been in last place in the conference for most of the season and were supposed to be a respite for Marquette. Nothing could have been further from the truth; Providence shot over 50 percent in the first half and led 43-36 at the intermission.

Fortunately for Marquette fans, the Golden Eagles cranked up the intensity on offense to compensate for their defensive shortcomings. Marquette went on another big third quarter run – this time, a 14-2 streak ­– to take a five-point lead.

Marquette was able to hang on to the lead in the end, although not without a scare. Providence took advantage of several of Marquette’s 18 turnovers to take a 72-70 lead halfway through the fourth quarter, but the Golden Eagles quickly went on a 9-0 run and never surrendered the lead again.

Five different Golden Eagles scored in double figures, led once again by Davenport with 22 points and nine rebounds. Yentz scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for her second career double-double. Blockton also chipped in 18 points, which leaves her just 14 points shy of the Big East freshman scoring record.

Marquette is now in sixth place in the Big East. The top six teams get a bye in the first round of the conference tournament, and the Golden Eagles could guarantee themselves at least that much with a victory in their next game. Conference-leading DePaul visits the Al McGuire Center on Saturday to close out Marquette’s regular season slate.