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Three takeaways: Free-throw struggles, Stonewall’s and-one hand DePaul BIG EAST Tournament title

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Three takeaways: Free-throw struggles, Stonewall’s and-one hand DePaul BIG EAST Tournament title

Photo by Elena Fiegen

Photo by Elena Fiegen

Photo by Elena Fiegen

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CHICAGO — For the second consecutive season, No. 2-seed DePaul has upset No. 1-seed Marquette in the BIG EAST Championship at Wintrust Arena. Although the Golden Eagles looked as if they had locked up the title, a crucial free throw for the Blue Demons handed them the narrow 74-73 victory in the final seconds.

 

Marquette buckles under pressure  

The Golden Eagles, who usually hit 74 percent of free throws, could not connect from the charity stripe Tuesday night.

“We have to capitalize on those points,” senior guard Allazia Blockton said. “We were getting them right where we wanted, getting them in foul trouble.”

Marquette went 9 for 19 from the free-throw line. Two of the most reliable free-throw shooters, senior guards Danielle King and Natisha Hiedeman, had the hardest time at the line. King, who usually hits 84 percent of her shots, was 1 for 4 from the line and Hiedeman, who usually hits 71 percent of free throws, finished 4 for 8.

“We’re not going to lose another game the rest of this year because of rebounding or free throws,” Marquette head coach Carolyn Kieger said. “I’ll be dang sure about that.”

 

Golden Eagles have no answers for Stonewall

After senior forward Erika Davenport went down with a season-ending ACL injury Feb. 22, Kieger said her team had to  adjust to playing without a post presence.

“It’s been an emotional toll,” Kieger said. “This is something we have to figure out. We have to weather the storm and we have to figure out who we can play more, who can rebound, who can battle (and) who can adjust.”

That adjustment did not go quite according to plan Tuesday against DePaul, as Blue Demons junior Chante Stonewall recorded 28 points on 11-of-17 shooting. She also hit all of her free throws, including the game-winning free throw with five seconds remaining. She also shot 3 for 5 from 3-point range and added six rebounds.

She was named BIG EAST Tournament Most Outstanding Player after the game.

“Chante Stonewall came back to school this year the most improved player. She worked very very hard in the offseason,” DePaul head coach Doug Bruno said. “Chante had a really strong game all night long. … I’m thrilled she was able to, when we called her number, come up big.”

 

Kieger’s squad will use the loss as ‘fuel’ 

Marquette will not have much time to dwell on Hiedeman, Blockton, King, Davenport and Amani Wilborn’s final BIG EAST Championship with the NCAA Tournament starting next week.

“We have to use it as fuel,” Kieger said. “We have to regroup, we have to get better. … We have the NCAA Tournament right around the corner and I know, for certain, that they will respond.”

“It hurts so bad because we care so much,” Hiedeman said. “The next practice we just have to come back out even better, stronger. Just giving everything we have until it’s really over with.”

“We have a lot more basketball to play,” Blockton said.

DePaul redshirt senior Mart’e Grays has seen Kieger’s team develop through her five years playing for Marquette’s rival.

“It’s just crazy how coach Kieger developed and evolved this team. My freshman year, Marquette was one of the lower teams in the BIG EAST,” Grays said. “The next year, they got so much better. … I have just so much respect for her and her players even putting in all that work and being dedicated to the program.”

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