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Women’s basketball prevails in back-and-forth contest at Seton Hall

McKayla+Yentz+scored+23+points+and+added+a+rebound+and+a+steal+against+Seton+Hall.
McKayla Yentz scored 23 points and added a rebound and a steal against Seton Hall.

McKayla Yentz scored 23 points and added a rebound and a steal against Seton Hall.

Photo by Brian Georgeson

Photo by Brian Georgeson

McKayla Yentz scored 23 points and added a rebound and a steal against Seton Hall.

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EAST ORANGE, N.J. – It might be cliche at this point to label a basketball game where teams trade streaks of made baskets a “game of runs.” When it comes to Tuesday night’s contest between the Marquette Golden Eagles (13-4, 4-2 BIG EAST) and the Seton Hall Pirates (8-8, 1-4 BIG EAST) in Walsh Gymnasium, not only does the cliche fit – it is a hefty understatement.

Marquette might not have played a better five minutes and one second of basketball all year than the stretch of time between 0:53 in the first quarter and 5:52 in the second quarter. Likewise, it is quite possible that the time between the halfway points of the third and fourth quarters might have contained some of Marquette’s worst basketball this season. It wasn’t quite enough to completely erase the Golden Eagles’ lead as they held on to an 83-77 victory.

“We were tough the first half,” Marquette head coach Carolyn Kieger said. “We were really, really tough. We were making the right pass into the right shot, we were taking Marquette looks – uncontested shots and it was beautiful ball movement. Second half, we got a little stagnant. They made the run and we weathered it at times, but we have to roll up our sleeves and get a little bit more gritty.”

It seemed as if every shot was the right shot during those five minutes, which saw Marquette rip off an 18-0 run and push a modest 17-14 lead to a seemingly unreachable 35-14 advantage. Kieger said her team is fully capable of playing that way on a regular basis.

“I haven’t seen that team like that in a while, so we’re gonna focus on that,” Kieger said. “That’s the team I’ve been waiting for. Sharing the ball, 12 assists that first half, excellent ball movement, getting gritty on defense, that’s who we need to be.”

Senior forward McKayla Yentz and sophomore guard Natisha Hiedeman each had two 3-pointers during that run. Hiedeman finished with a team-high 24 points and made six 3-pointers, tying a career mark. Yentz finished with 23 points and also made six 3-pointers, which broke her previous career record. Most of that was just a reaction to Seton Hall’s collapsing zone defense, Yentz said.

“I like it when the guards get into the middle and they bring everyone in,” she said. “Then, everywhere (around the arc) is open. I really credit the guards with drawing defenders in to get me a wide open shot.”

Nobody found shooters better than sophomore Amani Wilborn, who reached double-digits in assists for the first time in her collegiate career. She often assumed ball-handling duties even when starting point guard Danielle King was on the floor, which Kieger said isn’t unusual.

“We have an interchangeable offense, so whoever gets the ball is our point guard,” Kieger said. “The ball was in her hands tonight and she made some great reads.”

Marquette maintained its big lead for the beginning of the third quarter and even expanded it to as many as 23 points. That is around the time when things started to go horribly awry. Seton Hall closed the final four minutes and 56 seconds of the third quarter on a 17-2 run. The Pirates had their own pair of offensive catalysts in guards Kaela Hilaire and Claire Lundberg, who scored 18 and 16 points, respectively. 29 of their combined 34 points came in the second half. By the end of the third quarter, Seton Hall trailed by only eight.

Although Hiedeman broke Seton Hall’s run with a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter, Seton Hall simply would not go away. Hilaire dropped in a tough layup while being fouled by Marquette sophomore Erika Davenport with just over half the fourth quarter left to play. That filled the Walsh Gymnasium with the shouts of cheering fans who, for the first time all night, had a reason to do so. The ensuing free throw cut Marquette’s increasingly fragile lead to three points.

So what went wrong in that stretch? Everything.

“I think it was our toughness and our tempo on offense and defense,” Yentz said. “We’ve got to keep composure and start the half like it’s zero-zero and start the game like we did in the first quarter. We’ll get better at that.”

Fortunately for Marquette, Yentz provided that composure when the rest of the team was running low on it. She swished a 3-pointer just over a minute later to extend Marquette’s lead out to 73-67 and then hit another one a few possessions after that. The last one gave Marquette an eight-point lead with two minutes and 20 seconds to go, effectively sealing the game. Seton Hall would get within four points of the lead, but would never again make it a one-possession game.

“We got the W,” Kieger said, although certainly not by much.

NOTES

  • Marquette shot 33 3-pointers, just one off of its season-high. Hiedeman and Yentz accounted for 22 of those 33 attempts and 12 of Marquette’s 14 makes. “When a team’s playing zone, your obviously going to get more threes,” Kieger said of Seton Hall’s defense. “They played zone a majority of the game. When you have wide-open threes in the first half, great. But in the second half, when they start to go man (defense), we need to fix our shot selection.”
  • Hiedeman’s 24 points on 8 for 14 shooting was a welcome sight for Marquette fans. She shook off her poor long-range performance against St. John’s on Sunday by going 6 for 11 from beyond the arc against Seton Hall. Kieger called Hiedeman a “microwave” and said that her recent struggles did not concern her. “When she gets hot, she’s unbelievable,” Kieger said.
  • Sophomore guard Olivia Moskari sat out once again with an undisclosed injury. Moskari has not played in a game since the start of conference play.

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