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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Women’s basketball heading to first BIG EAST final

Photo by Austin Anderson
Women’s basketball celebrates after their semifinal victory against Creighton.

For the first time in school history, the Marquette women’s basketball team advanced to the BIG EAST Tournament championship game. A 72-65 victory over No. 2 seed Creighton University makes Marquette the first 3 seed to earn a seat in the finals since 2012 and pushes the squad to 5-0 against teams who are ranked in the Top 25 this season.

“We’ve been talking about this since the beginning of the season. It’s just exciting to be a part of and to be actually playing in a championship game this year,” guard Amani Wilborn said.

It wasn’t easy. With an eight-point lead, just over a minute left and Creighton creeping back into contention, the game felt eerily familiar down the stretch to a crushing 80-77 loss at the hands of the Bluejays just over one month prior.

Instead of letting another one slip away against the veteran-laden Creighton squad, who swept Marquette 2-0 in the regular season series, the Golden Eagles clutched up and closed out. With just under a minute left, Wilborn found BIG EAST leading scorer Allazia Blockton on a Hail Mary three-quarter court outlet pass, who then got to the rim for an easy layup to extend a six-point lead to eight. Two missed Creighton layups and a Blockton game-icing free throw later, the Golden Eagles secured a chance to win the top conference prize on their home court in Tuesday night’s championship game.

One key difference between that late-January regular season loss and today’s semifinal victory was maturity, a theme head coach Carolyn Kieger stresses defined the entire season for the Golden Eagles.

“That was fantastic to watch them weather that storm, make every right play down the stretch,” Kieger said. “They looked like veterans out there. Makes my job easier. That was a great environment, and that was fun, and I could not be more proud of my players and my staff.”

That same maturity can be seen in the box score as well. Marquette turned the ball over just four times, committed seven fouls and allowed only two attempts from the free throw line.

In fact, much of Marquette’s success this afternoon is revealed in the numbers. The Golden Eagles outscored the Bluejays 22-0 in transition offense and 46-26 in the paint.

Creighton, Marquette’s clock-grinding defensive-minded basketball antithesis, struggled to keep pace with Kieger’s revved up offense and failed to contain three standout Marquette players. Blockton finished the night with 19 points, seven rebounds and two assists while shooting 50 percent from the field. Wilborn, meanwhile, used her size and strength to get to the line an impressive eight times, knocking down seven of her free throw attempts and pouring in a total of 21 points.

Most impressive, however, was Danielle King, who continued her white-hot streak with perhaps her best half of basketball ever to start the game. The 5-foot-5 point guard scored Marquette’s first four points and notched four assists in the first quarter, ensuring her team didn’t get too far behind after a hot start propelled Creighton to 22-18 through the first ten-minute frame.

In the second quarter, King scored 10 points and truly took over. She went a perfect 4-for-4 from the field, including a deep rattling three, a blink-and-you-miss-it one-man, fast-break layup and a pair of nifty finishes around the rim and over Creighton’s towering frontline. The sophomore guard finished the game with 18 points, five rebounds and five assists on 8-for-16 shooting.

“Her tempo and her speed is like nothing I’ve seen before,” Kieger said. “Now she’s learning when to go full speed and when to change her pace. She’s becoming a phenomenal point guard for us and I love her growth.”

With 20 seconds left in the game, King dribbled out the clock to end one of her best performances in the biggest game of her college career yet.

The team’s next game is sure to be bigger, though. Marquette squares off Tuesday night at 8 p.m. against DePaul.

Going 16-2 in regular season conference play, the Blue Demons came into the tournament with the BIG-EAST’s best record for the third time in the past four years, and they hope to claim their third conference title since 2014.

Their two losses on the season, however, come at the hands of Marquette. If Creighton is the Golden Eagle’s mirror-image antithesis, than DePaul is the original prime copy.  Head coach Doug Bruno runs the only offense to score more per game than Kieger’s, with an 81.5 points per game number that just barely edges Marquette’s 79.3.

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