Van Kleunen makes clutch shot to lift WBB over Creighton

Lauren+Van+Kleunen+hit+the+game-winning+shot+in+Marquette%27s+52-50+victory+over+Creighton+Sunday.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Marquette+Athletics.%29

Lauren Van Kleunen hit the game-winning shot in Marquette's 52-50 victory over Creighton Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Jack Phillips

After a slow start in the first half, Marquette women’s basketball completed an incredible comeback Sunday, defeating the Creighton Bluejays 52-50.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this group of young women,” head coach Megan Duffy said. “Their response at halftime to get back to being ourselves, to get back to playing Marquette basketball … this was a huge win for our team.”

It was a whirlwind fourth quarter, even though both teams scored only five points in the first five minutes of the frame.

From there, it was a series of big plays in crunch time that defined the game. 

First-year guard Claire Kaifes swished a 3-pointer with 2:13 left to give Marquette a 48-46 lead.

“I was running back on defense and I said, ‘I love you,’ when (Claire) hit that three,” redshirt junior forward Lauren Van Kleunen said. “I was just so pumped when she hit that. She works on that every day.”

After Creighton tied it at the free-throw line with just 55 seconds remaining, junior guard Selena Lott drove around a screen and converted a layup to put her team in the lead with 31 seconds to go.

The Bluejays missed their next shot, but CU’s Rachael Saunders got the rebound and put it back in to tie the game, forcing a Duffy timeout with 20 seconds left.

Duffy drew up a play for Van Kleunen, who posted up her defender and made a turn-around hook shot with .7 seconds remaining to secure the lead for good.

“I kind of surprised myself, to be honest,” Van Kleunen said. “When it went in, I was like, ‘Holy cow.’ You dream about that type of stuff and for me to go win it, it was pretty awesome.”

The final score is not indicative of Marquette’s performance in the first half, though. It was not a good start for MU, as the Bluejays began the game on a 9-0 run thanks to 0-for-7 shooting from the Golden Eagles. 

At the end of the first quarter, MU trailed 14-6 and was shooting just 17% on field goals.

“We’ve got to get better focus and energy,” Van Kleunen said. “Our sense of urgency needs to be better overall. We have to get out of that first-half funk we have.”

Strong defense early in the second quarter allowed Marquette to stay in the game, holding Creighton scoreless for over five minutes. 

But the Bluejays couldn’t be contained for long, as they made a basket on their next four possessions to give themselves a 32-19 lead entering the halftime break.

The beginning of the third quarter could not have been more different from the first half, as a 10-0 Marquette run tied the game at 34-34 with 4:07 left in the frame.

“(At halftime), Coach Duffy was saying that this wasn’t us, that we need to be better,” Van Kleunen said. “(Duffy) said, ‘I don’t know what team I’m looking at, but this isn’t us.’ So we came together and said, ‘We’ve got to fix this,’ and we did. We showed that we can fight back.”

After three quarters, MU led 38-36 after 10 points from junior guard Selena Lott in the frame.

Then in the fourth, it came down to the wire, with Van Kleunen swishing the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-style jumper to solidify her team’s second place ranking.

“Lauren’s composure and footwork on that last possession was tremendous,” Duffy said. “For her to check and see where the defense was, understanding the clock and having that soft touch, just an overall great play for her to step up and hit that game-winning basket.”

Lott led MU with 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Van Kleunen totaled 10 points and eight rebounds. First-year guard Jordan King added 11 points, while senior Isabelle Spingola pulled down a game-high nine rebounds.

Kaifes, a first-year guard who had only played 98 minutes prior to today’s matchup, contributed three points and four rebounds in addition to spectacular defense in her 24 minutes on the floor.

“Claire Kaifes was awesome for us today,” Duffy said. “She’s been a worker with a great attitude ever since she stepped on campus here. … Her three, other than Lauren’s last second shot, could have been the play of the game, stepping up and knocking down that three. But on defense, we were able to keep them in front of us (because of her).”

For Creighton, Temi Carda put up a game-high 20 points and Tatum Rembao added nine of her own. Bluejays star Jaylyn Agnew totaled six rebounds but shot just 2-for-12 on the day.

Marquette (17-5, 8-3 BIG EAST) travels east now, taking on Seton Hall Friday at 6 p.m. Central Standard Time.