Women’s basketball knocked out in BIG EAST Tournament Quarterfinal

Blockton scores MU conference tournament record 31 points


Photo by Mike Carpenter/michael.carpenter@marquette.edu

Marquette’s loss to the Seton Hall Pirates in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Tournament was a microcosm of the season. Five freshmen, at times, took on opponents with far more experience and did better than expected. There were a few moments where it looked like the Golden Eagles would shock the conference, but poor defense and a lack of fundamentals prevented them from doing so.

The Golden Eagles certainly had their opportunities to upend the Pirates. They led at the end of the first quarter. They tied the game in the third quarter. They went on runs of 6-0 and 8-0 in the fourth quarter to cut the Pirates’ lead to within a possession. Each time, they could not follow through. In the end, Seton Hall escaped with a 93-86 victory.

If there were one player to credit for Marquette’s demise, it would be Seton Hall forward Tiffany Jones. The senior pounded the Golden Eagles all day, logging a team-high 29 points and 18 rebounds. Had Jones collected just two more rebounds, it would have been only the second 20-point, 20-rebound performance in the last two decades of BIG EAST Tournament play.

Jones was tremendous on her own merits, but Marquette did itself no favors by consistently helping off of Jones on defense. This led to easy jumpers and offensive rebounds, and Jones went 4-for-6 on three-pointers. She shot under 30 percent during the regular season.

No Seton Hall bench player scored a point against Marquette, but the Golden Eagles’ defense was so shoddy that none were required. Two other players, senior guards Shakena Richardson and Aleesha Powell, scored more than 20 points while shooting over 40 percent from the floor. As a team, Seton Hall made over 50 percent of its field goals, many of them lightly contested.

The Golden Eagles would have had to mount the best offensive performance of their season to counterbalance their defense, and they nearly did it. Credit for that is largely owed to freshman guard Allazia Blockton, who had a magnificent game even by her standards. She led Marquette with 31 points on 10-of-14 shooting. That was not only the highest total on the team, but the highest total that any Golden Eagle has ever scored in BIG EAST Tournament play.

Proceedings started out well for Marquette; it led for over eight minutes of the opening quarter. An 11-4 run to start the game had Seton Hall forcing shots and playing with an abundance of nervous energy. That lead could have been even greater were it not for Marquette’s turnovers. Five gaffes in the first quarter led directly to eight Seton Hall points. Marquette led 21-18 by the time the buzzer sounded, but it probably should have been even more.

Another opportunity arose in the second quarter when Seton Hall guard and BIG EAST-leading scorer Tabatha Richardson-Smith picked up her second foul and had to sit for four minutes. The Pirates stepped up on defense, though, and the two teams fought to a 9-9 draw in Richardson-Smith’s absence. Curiously enough, Marquette chose not to increase the intensity of its press defense in the absence of Richardson-Smith, arguably Seton Hall’s best ball handler. Seton Hall went into halftime up 43-41.

All season long, Marquette’s fortunes were reliant on runs, but that point of attack didn’t work Sunday. After a Blockton free throw tied the game at 50 with just over six minutes left in the quarter, the Golden Eagles’ offense suddenly disappeared. Marquette would go the next four minutes without making a single field goal. By the time freshman guard Natisha Hiedeman broke the drought with a three-pointer, the Golden Eagles had fallen behind, 66-58.

Blockton and Jones quickly made the fourth quarter their showcase. Jones scored 10 points and picked up three rebounds. Blockton, meanwhile, shouldered Marquette’s comeback hopes, pouring in 14 of her 31 points in the final quarter. Blockton’s shots were also contested nearly every time, while all of Jones’ fourth quarter looks were almost always wide open.

Marquette delivered its last scare as the clock slipped under three minutes to play. A full court press forced Seton Hall into a ten-second violation, then freshman guard Amani Wilborn dropped in a layup to cut Seton Hall’s lead to 83-80. It would never get any closer than that, as Seton Hall scored on its next three possessions.

In all likelihood, Marquette’s season is over. Since the Golden Eagles’ overall record is 14-16, they are disqualified from receiving an at-large bid to the National Invitation Tournament. Right now, Marquette’s only chance of playing in the postseason is to get the BIG EAST’s automatic NIT bid, which is awarded to the highest-finishing team in the standings that does not go to the NCAA tournament. Marquette finished sixth in the BIG EAST and the conference will likely send its top four teams – DePaul, Villanova, Seton Hall and St. John’s – to the tournament. In that scenario, the automatic bid would go to Georgetown, who finished fifth. Therefore, Georgetown winning the BIG EAST tournament and grabbing the NCAA Tournament auto-bid is the only scenario that would send the Golden Eagles to the postseason.