Women’s basketball moves on to semifinals for fourth straight year

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Photo by Zach Bukowski

Jordan King (23) puts up a layup in Marquette’s win over Villanova Saturday night.

CHICAGO — It was a battle between the youngest tenured coach and the oldest tenured coach in the BIG EAST at Wintrust Arena as Marquette women’s basketball defeated Villanova 72-59 in the BIG EAST Quarterfinals Saturday night.

“Just thrilled, obviously in March to get a win no matter how ugly or pretty it looks,” Marquette head coach Megan Duffy said. “Thought our team was able to keep its composure when Villanova was able to make different runs throughout the game. Just can’t tell you how proud I am of this overall group to individually make plays whether on the offensive or defensive end to get this win today.”

The win marks Duffy’s first postseason win at MU and the program’s fourth straight trip to the BIG EAST Semifinals.

Following a season-long trend, it was the fourth-quarter performance from the Golden Eagles that gave Marquette the win, outscoring the Wildcats 27-17 in the final frame.

“Physically, they are just stronger than we are,” Villanova head coach Harry Perretta said. “We gave so much effort in the third quarter, but I don’t want to make excuses — I thought we were a little bit tired in the fourth quarter. I thought we were a little fatigued and made some defensive errors.”

Marquette got out to a hot start in the first quarter, quickly going up 10-2 in the first four minutes. It was Golden Eagles’ defense that brought struggles to the Wildcats offense holding them to shoot 4-for-17 from the field in the quarter.

Despite not making a field goal in the last 3:57, Marquette found themselves up 17-11 heading into the second quarter. First-year guard Jordan King scored nine of the Golden Eagles 17 points in the frame.

“She played the way she is capable of playing,” Perretta said. “She forced us to make defensive mistakes. She moved really well and was just really aggressive offensively.”

The start to the second quarter was closer than how it ended, as VU brought the game within two.

A 9-0 run over a span of 2:08 forced Villanova to call a timeout as the Golden Eagles opened their lead to double digits. Despite the MU run, both teams finished the half struggling offensively. MU spent the last 5:56 without a field goal while VU did not score in the last 3:54.

“They play really good defense,” Perretta said. “They took us completely out of our offense.”

Marquette led 31-19 at the half as the Golden Eagles shot 39% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc.

The third quarter was tightly contested, with Villanova outscoring Marquette 21-14 and finishing the quarter on a 13-4 run. Despite the 13-4 run by VU, both teams struggled offensively in the quarter. MU led 45-42 heading into the final frame.

Marquette really came alive in the fourth, making 9-of-11 free throws and pulling down 11 rebounds. Junior guard Selena Lott and senior forward Altia Anderson combined for 14 of the Golden Eagles’ 27 points in the quarter leading MU to a 72-59 victory.

Perretta, who coached his last BIG EAST game after 42 years, credited Marquette’s composure and staying to themselves in the team’s fourth-quarter performance.

“They kept running their offense, they didn’t give up, they didn’t take it one-on-one and that shows a sign of maturity from the coaching staff all the way to their players,” Perretta said.

On the night, Marquette shot 44% from the field, marking it the 23rd time this season the Golden Eagles have shot 40% or higher from the field.

As a team, Marquette pulled down 44 rebounds compared to Villanova’s 28.

“It has been our bread and butter all year,” Duffy said. “It something we emphasis and talk about on a daily basis, whether it is our guard play or our post being able to create extra possessions.”

Lott led the way for the Golden Eagles on the night with 17 points, 11 of which came from the charity stripe. The All-BIG EAST Second Team honoree also added nine rebounds and four assists to her stat line.

Three other Golden Eagles finished in double digits. King added 14 points, two rebounds and two assists. Lauren Van Kleunen put up a personal BIG EAST Tournament-best 12 points and nine rebounds. Camryn Taylor recorded 11 points and six rebounds.

Despite putting up a career-best in the tournament, there was another first for Van Kleunen on the night. At the 6:28 mark of the third quarter, the Mason, Ohio, native knocked down her first 3-pointer of the season.

“(Selena) and I were in ball screen, and I wasn’t sure if she was going to pull it. I saw in the corner of my eye that the clock was ticking down and even though I don’t shoot them in games, I work on threes,” Van Kleunen said. “Just talking to coach after the game and she said, ‘You know in March, you make plays.’ So when it left my fingers I knew it was going in, but it was cool to see it go down in-game.”

Bridget Herlihy led the way for the Wildcats on the night with 22 points, shooting 8-for-18, with three rebounds and two assists. BIG EAST Freshman of the Year Madison Siegrist finished with 21 points, shooting 9-for-17.

Marquette’s (23-7, 13-5 BIG EAST) next game will be against St. John’s in the BIG EAST Semifinals Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. at Wintrust Arena.

This article was written by John Leuzzi. He can be reached at john.leuzzi@marquette.edu or on Twitter @JohnLeuzziMU.