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WBB Takeaways: Wilborn gets birthday wish with title

Marquette+won+its+first+BIG+EAST+Championship+Tuesday+night+against+DePaul+at+the+Al+McGuire+Center.
Marquette won its first BIG EAST Championship Tuesday night against DePaul at the Al McGuire Center.

Marquette won its first BIG EAST Championship Tuesday night against DePaul at the Al McGuire Center.

Photo by Austin Anderson

Photo by Austin Anderson

Marquette won its first BIG EAST Championship Tuesday night against DePaul at the Al McGuire Center.

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Final Score: Marquette 83, DePaul 78

Leaders:

Points: Natisha Hiedeman (28)

Rebounds: Amani Wilborn (8)

Assists: Allazia Blockton (3)

The Al McGuire Center, alive and well

3,166 fans poured into the Al McGuire Center, giving tonight’s championship game the rowdy college basketball atmosphere it deserved.

An outspoken student section rained down upon the court with relentless “We are Marquette” chants, chased fouled-out opponents to the bench and sparked several scattered “MVP” anointments.

“Our crowd is amazing. The atmosphere in the Al McGuire is amazing,” guard Natisha Hiedeman said. “They bring us a lot of energy. We feed off them, they feed off us. We won it together. Honestly, they deserve it just as much as we do. I just wanted to thank them.”

Some sights and sounds of note among the crowd: Marquette legend and 11-year NBA veteran Steve Novak sitting just a couple spots away from University President Michael Lovell, a homemade “Carolyn Kieger Making Marquette Great Again” sign and one fan’s continual ruthless demand to “Take no prisoners!”

Hiedeman hits threes

Hiedeman had the game of her life, pouring in 28 points while going unconscious from deep with 6 of her 10 attempts connecting. She also wasted no opportunities at the charity stripe, collecting all 10 points of her game-high 10 attempts.

The Golden Eagles knew the basketball gods were looking friendly at them when Hiedeman’s no-chance half-court shot swished as the clock expired at the end of the first quarter.

The buzzer beater was the absolute wildest play of the game, lending Marquette a one-point, 25-24 edge to end the first frame, while also setting the stage for Hiedeman’s lights out night.

Little did the guard know that she wasn’t just having a career night, but was actually engaging in a high stakes sniping skirmish with DePaul’s Amarah Coleman. The two traded three for three all night, with Coleman splashing in 5 of her 6 attempts for deep on her way to a 17-point night that helped keep DePaul from ever falling too far behind.

Hiedeman’s 3-point explosion earned her a place in Marquette history books all-time sophomore leader for 3-pointers made, and also helped a clinch a spot on the All-Tournament team.

Happy birthday, Amani Wilborn

Winning the BIG EAST title was one heck of a birthday present for sophomore Amani Wilborn, who turned 20 today. The icing on the cake? An All-Tournament Most Outstanding Player Award.

“It’s the best feeling ever. It’s like the best birthday I’ve ever had,” Wilborn said. “I feel like a little kid again.”

The career bench player, who averaged just a shade under 10 points a game in the regular season, played three of the best games of her career this tournament.

In the quarterfinals matchup against Georgetown, Wilborn notched her first-ever double-double with a 12 point, 12 rebound effort. In the next round against Creighton, Wilborn dumped 21 points on the Bluejays and got to the line a game-high eight times while carrying the Golden Eagles down the stretch.

Tonight, Wilborn cruised to a 20-point, eight rebound effort. Her off-speed game and shifty post-up work juiced Marquette’s half-court offense and provided a welcome, and literal, change of pace to the usual breakneck style.

Fouls, fouls, fouls

Both teams finished with exactly 29 made shots from the field, with DePaul going 29-for-69 and Marquette going 29-for-57. Thirteen of the Blue Demon’s makes came from behind the arc, while Marquette only hit nine of their looks from deep.

What tipped the scales to an eight-point Marquette victory? Twenty-two trips to the free throw line, 19 of which went in. The Blue Demons, meanwhile, traveled to the stripe only 10 times, while connecting on just seven.

Time to dance, literally

The season isn’t over for either team, with both expected to earn seeds in the top seven for the big dance come Selection Monday.

Marquette’s goal this year has been to get senior McKayla Yentz to her first-ever NCAA Tournament.

“(Yentz) just worked hard. She was pretty much our motivation throughout this,” Wilborn said.

Their ticket had already been punched, of course. But a win tonight just earned the Golden Eagle’s TSA pre-check status.

Kieger setting her sights high

Tonight marked the first BIG EAST title in Marquette history, the first conference title since winning the top prize in 1995 as members of the Great Midwest Conference and the first championship game appearance since a 1997 showing in Conference USA’s title bout.

It marked Marquette’s eighth straight win, and pushed their record against Top 25 ranked teams to a perfect 6-0 on the season.

If there was ever a time to consider the sky to be the limit, it’s now.

“I feel like we just set expectations super high,” Hiedeman said. “I’m living in the moment right now, but I’m looking forward to the next couple years, too.”

Kieger wasted no time setting expectations, sharing one of her ultimate goals as a coach for the next few years.

“The men have been to the Final Four, and I’m not shy to say that’s our goal,” Kieger said. “BIG EAST Championship is amazing, but we’re not going to stop there. If (my players) know that’s my mentality, and they know that’s where we’re headed, than they’re going to have to follow along.”

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One Response to “WBB Takeaways: Wilborn gets birthday wish with title”

  1. Andriyanto on April 3rd, 2017 12:35 am

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