Women’s basketball survives late scare against Michigan

No. 22 Marquette women’s basketball defeated the University of Michigan Wolverines 85-74 at the Al McGuire Center Sunday afternoon.

“That first half, we looked like the best team I’ve seen in about four years here,” head coach Carolyn Kieger said. “We were clicking on all cylinders, sharing the ball (and) making the right read. Our defense was following the game plan (and) packing the paint.”

The first and second quarters were utter domination for the Golden Eagles. Senior guards Natisha Hiedeman and Amani Wilborn controlled early on. Hiedeman scored heavily from beyond the arc and Wilborn drove to the lane at will.

The Golden Eagles shot 57 percent from the field in the first half. They also contained Michigan’s 6-foot-5 center Hallie Thome.

Coming into this matchup, Thome was the Wolverines’ leading scorer. She had 11 points and two rebounds Sunday afternoon.

“We wanted to push (Thome) off the block and limit deep paint touches, and then we wanted to come over and help side and double team as much as we could when she caught it on the low block,” Kieger said. “(We) did a really good job of paying attention to the game plan.”

Marquette had a 52-32 lead at halftime. Senior forward Erika Davenport already had a team-high 13 points.

The second half was a completely different story for the Golden Eagles. Michigan, who trailed by 20 at halftime and had its reserve unit in for a large amount of the second half, brought the game to a far closer conclusion.

In the fourth quarter alone, the Wolverines outscored the Golden Eagles 26-11, even with their two leading scorers being relegated to the bench.

“We just need to get back to Marquette basketball,” Davenport said. “We need to make sure that we don’t take our foot off the gas.”

Davenport led Marquette with 21 points and eight rebounds.

“(Michigan) rotates very heavy in their help-side defense, so we knew the dump-offs were going to be there, and the extra ‘one-more’ passes,” Kieger said. “Our guards did a great job of keeping their head(s) up and making the extra movement, and Erika was in the right spot at the right time.”

Aside from Davenport, the other four senior starters ended up in double digits, with guard Allazia Blockton putting up 18, Danielle King and Wilborn contributing 12 each and Hiedeman adding 11.

“I’m very proud of them for the first half and disappointed in our second half,” Kieger said. “So we’ll watch film, we’ll solve it and if we play the pace that we played at in the first half, I think we can really stick with anyone in the country.”

Marquette will put Kieger’s theory to the test Thursday against No. 6 Mississippi State. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. Central Standard Time.

“We’re going in there, and we’re going (to) play our pace, our tempo,” Kieger said. “Obviously we have to rebound, and I’m really proud of our rebounding tonight. … We’re going to have to do that in the next game as well.”