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Marquette shakes things up in bounce-back victory over Providence

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Allazia Blockton led Marquette with 18 points in its win against Providence.

Allazia Blockton led Marquette with 18 points in its win against Providence.

Photo by Brian Georgeson

Photo by Brian Georgeson

Allazia Blockton led Marquette with 18 points in its win against Providence.

The Marquette Golden Eagles salvaged the tail end of their two-game homestand Wednesday, outlasting the Providence Friars, 79-74, at the Al McGuire Center.

The Golden Eagles sported a much different look early, starting sophomores Shantelle Valentine and Sandra Dahling and junior Amani Wilborn instead of sophomores Natisha Hiedeman and Allazia Blockton and senior McKayla Yentz.

Wednesday was Dahling’s first career start and Hiedeman, Blockton and Yentz’s first game out of the lineup this season.

“We just needed to change it up and get a sense of urgency,” head coach Carolyn Kieger said. “Nothing wrong with a little friendly competition.”

Erika Davenport rejected the idea that the new lineup affected the team’s chemistry on the court.

“We all have a good chemistry,” Davenport said. “We’re still going to play as a team no matter who she puts on the floor.”

Kieger put the recently-benched trio in the game at the under-5 media timeout in the first quarter.

Marquette’s unusual grouping coincided with a lethargic offensive output in the first quarter. The team shot only 31 percent from the field and 17 percent from downtown.

“We’re working through some things on offense,” Kieger said regarding the team’s relative slumps. “We’ll fix it and we’ll get better.”

Hiedeman responded to her first non-start of her career strongly in the second quarter, scoring as many points (10) as the entire Providence squad.

“When she makes one, she gets hot. She gets on a roll,” Kieger said. “Once she hit one and starts feeling it, I think a lot of people made her some great passes.”

Marquette as a team also showed a much-improved offensive effort in the second quarter, shooting 65 percent from the field and 43 percent from 3-point range.

Hiedeman’s production helped Marquette build a comfortable 15-point lead entering halftime.

The team started the second half poorly, allowing 63 percent shooting from the Friars in the third quarter.

Kieger remained optimistic after the game about her team’s defense despite the rough third quarter.

“I’m really proud of our defensive output in the first half. … We held them to 22 points,” Kieger said. “We’re going to focus on the good things.”

Providence prevented Marquette from expanding the lead back to double-digits in the fourth quarter until Yentz scored a 4-point play with just under seven minutes remaining. The team immediately followed Yentz’s first points of the game by forcing a five-second violation.

Yentz’s 3-pointer and free throw along with the team’s forced turnover sparked a 10-0 run.

“A 4-point play is hard to come by,” Kieger said. “It fired everybody up. … Hopefully it looks as good on film.”

As Kieger put her backups in the game, Providence took advantage offensively. The Friars finished the game on a 15-4 run.

Blockton, Hiedeman and Davenport paced the Golden Eagles’ offense, combining to score 49 of the team’s 79 points.

“My teammates (were) looking for me and spacing out the court,” Davenport said. “We practiced a lot to just keep moving.”

Davenport also had a team-high 10 rebounds, which she attributed to “hustle, knowing where the ball is going and working hard.”

This win was a significant improvement from the team’s disappointing 83-63 week at home earlier in the week to Creighton.

“I was much more pleased with our effort tonight and our focus,” Kieger said. “It was a great bounce-back win.”

“We had some real conversations the past few days,” Kieger said. “We watched a lot of film and we tried to fix what we need to — just be great teammates and play for the name on the front of the jersey.”

Following this win over Providence, who was picked to finish last in the BIG EAST preseason poll, the team will head out east to take on St. John’s Sunday. If the Golden Eagles win, it would be their seventh win in eight games.

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