Women’s basketball holds off late surge by No. 16 DePaul in final regular season game

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Photo by Jordan Johnson

Lauren Van Kleunen (42) looks to make a pass in Marquette’s 90-83 victory against No.16 DePaul.

Jack Phillips

It was a battle of the BIG EAST’s top two teams at the Al McGuire Center Sunday with Marquette women’s basketball upsetting the reigning conference champions, the then-No. 16 DePaul Blue Demons, 90-83 in the final game of the regular season. 

Consecutive losses to Villanova and Marquette contributed to DePaul dropping to No. 18 in the latest Associated Press poll.

“This is something that we’ve had in the back of our minds every practice, every game,” first-year guard Jordan King said. “This is something we have wanted since that first loss. It feels amazing to finally work all week and get the win like this.”

Marquette (22-7, 13-5 BIG EAST) was picked to finish ninth in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches’ Poll, but secured the second seed in the conference tournament with the win Sunday.

“When that poll came out, it went up in our locker room that day,” King said. “Every practice, every game we go in with a chip on our shoulder. The work ethic and determination by our team has been great this whole season, and I’m so proud of our team.”

MU hosted their Senior Day ceremony before the game, honoring senior guard Isabelle Spingola and senior forward Altia Anderson.

“To have our two seniors go out on a high note here at the Al McGuire Center was tremendous,” head coach Megan Duffy said. “I’m more excited that we just got a quality win for that NCAA Tournament committee.”

Marquette got out to a hot start in the first quarter, quickly going up 15-4 just over four minutes into the game.

“It’s just coming out with determination and focus,” King said. “We thought it was very important to start off strong, and I’m glad we did.”

DePaul snatched back momentum toward the end of the quarter, and MU headed into the second leading just 27-20.

The second frame was far closer at the start, with the Blue Demons pulling within two at one point.

Marquette had different plans, going on a 13-2 run in the last three minutes of the quarter, capped off by junior guard Selena Lott who hit a half-court buzzer-beater at the horn to give Marquette a 50-34 advantage at the break. 

“Sometimes it’s your night when the half-court shot falls,” Duffy said. “It was nice to finally have the basketball gods on our side trying to execute a shot down the stretch.”

The third quarter was tightly contested, with DePaul narrowly outscoring the Golden Eagles 18-16. King hit a three at the buzzer to give Marquette a 14-point lead heading into the final period.

DePaul really came alive in the fourth quarter, outscoring Marquette 31-24 in the frame and pulling within three possessions. 

Despite the DePaul pressure, MU held strong and secured the victory.

“We sustained the end of DePaul’s whoosh, and I’m really thrilled with the result today,” Duffy said. “Getting a quality win to go into March Madness was so crucial.”

Redshirt junior forward Lauren Van Kleunen led the way with 22 points and seven rebounds, and Lott added 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. 

Anderson put up a double-double in her final regular season game with 10 points and 12 boards, King totaled 16 points, and first-year guard Nirel Lougbo contributed six points, four rebounds and five assists.

As a team, Marquette pulled down 55 rebounds compared to DePaul’s 36. MU’s height advantage was on display in the post play.

“Whenever you get rebounds like that, you can get out in transition,” Van Kleunen said. “We want to be the best rebounding team. The four post (players) always talk about being relentless on the boards, and that’s huge for us that we outrebound teams.”

For DePaul, Lexi Held put up a game-high 25 points, while Kelly Campbell totaled 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Deja Church added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the DePaul, while Chante Stonewall contributed 12 points and seven rebounds.

Marquette’s next game will be in the postseason, playing in the BIG EAST Tournament. The Golden Eagles’ quarterfinal matchup will take place March 7 at Wintrust Arena at 6 p.m.

“Whoever we play, it’s going to be tough. I think anyone can win the championship,” Van Kleunen. “This is the time. March is great, especially for women’s basketball. … It’s going to be an exciting time in the locker room, we know we’re not done yet.”

Regardless of her players’ performances in the BIG EAST playoffs, Duffy thinks they have has locked in a spot in the Round of 64.

“I absolutely think we 100% belong in the NCAA Tournament,” Duffy said.

This article was written by Dan Avington. He can be reached at daniel.avington or on Twitter @danavington.