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Marquette falls to Quinnipiac in first round of NCAA Tournament

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The Marquette Golden Eagles fell 68-65 to the Quinnipiac Bobcats in their first tournament appearance under head coach Carolyn Kieger. It was the first tournament win in program history for Quinnipiac.

“I’m really really proud of our whole entire program,” Kieger said. “We’ve come a long way in three years and I’m glad we got to have this experience here at the NCAA tournament because we worked really hard for it, but we know we’re just getting started. We just talked about in the locker room we have to remember this pain, we have to remember what this feels like and use it as motivation.”

After climbing back from a 19-point deficit, Marquette came out of a timeout with the ball at their end of the court and 2.8 seconds left to go in the game. Kieger had drawn up a play for Natisha Hiedeman to shoot a three-pointer to tie the game. Hiedeman got the ball, stepped forward splitting the double team and threw up a shot that went half way down before rimming out to end the game.

“When I shot it, it looked good,” Hiedeman said. “It was half way down. It wasn’t supposed to go in I guess.”

Tournament experience was the difference for the Bobcats in the first quarter, as they opened the game on a 9-0 run. This was Marquette’s first tournament appearance since 2011, while Quinnipiac has been dancing three out of the last five years.

“You could see (Marquette was) nervous to start this game. I think everyone in the building knew it,” Kieger said. “We just try to keep them confident. We try to get them to calm down a bit.”

The Golden Eagles’ offensive woes continued, as Quinnipiac built up a 43-30 halftime lead. A large part of Marquette’s offensive problems was the fact that the Golden Eagles’ dribble drive offense struggled with a Quinnipiac zone that allowed the Bobcats to collapse on Marquette’s slashers. For Marquette, the answer to Quinnipiac’s defense was getting the ball down low to Erika Davenport.

“They do a great job of packing the paint and they front a lot,” Kieger said. “We knew Erika was going to be able to use her athleticism and strength down low, so she had a great game. I think sometimes we forced it to her in the first half and that was jitters and what not.”

Davenport finished the game with a team-high 21 points and eight rebounds.

Despite playing better in the second quarter, Marquette came out of halftime flat and Quinnipiac took advantage by extending their lead to 19.

Marquette looked like a new team to start the fourth quarter. Several big momentum plays including an Amani Wilborn steal and a fast break layup from Hiedeman swung the momentum in Marquette’s favor.

“We started playing the way we always do and that’s fast, that’s frantic and that’s getting up in full-court pressure,” Kieger said. “That was our game plan to start the game, to start out in our press we just didn’t have the energy and the fight we did in the fourth quarter. Nothing different.”

With 1:56 left Marquette was down 65-63. Following a Quinnipiac turnover, Wilborn had the ball at the top of the key, after a missed layup Davenport scooped up the offensive rebound, but she was also unable to make a shot, but Wilborn got another offensive round for Marquette, however Hiedeman missed a three-pointer, giving the ball back to Quinnipiac.

After a pair of made free throws, the Bobcats went up 67-63. Marquette got the ball back and Davenport made a layup with six seconds left to go to cut the lead to 67-65. The Golden Eagles fouled again, but this time Paula Strautmane missed one of her free throws to give Marquette the chance for the last second shot, but the ball decided not to go in.

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