Second quarter struggles, costly turnovers hand Marquette first BIG EAST loss

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Marquette gathers for a huddle in their 77-66 loss to Seton Hall on Jan. 15. (Photo courtesy of Seton Hall Athletics.)

After a 30 day layoff due to the Christmas Holiday Break and a COVID-19 shutdown to the program, the Marquette women’s basketball team was back in action Friday afternoon at Seton Hall.

The Pirates handed the Golden Eagles their first BIG EAST loss of the season, 77-66.

“Most importantly, we’re glad to be back playing. It was a really long layoff from playing Xavier back on Dec. 22,” head coach Megan Duffy told the Journal Sentinel’s Ben Steele. “We only had eight available players based on COVID protocols and knew this week we were going to have to get back onto the practice floor and getting some of that rust off. I think the big thing today, the positive thing despite the loss, is that we’re thrilled to be back and trying to get some momentum going.”

Despite making their first three shots to begin the game, MU’s lack of practice quickly began to show in the following minutes of the first quarter. Sophomore guard Lauren Park-Lane spearheaded a 12-2 run over a 3:23 minute span to send SHU into the first under-five media timeout leading 17-9.

Following the timeout, MU quickly responded with a small run of their own, but Seton Hall took advantage of MU’s pick and roll defense to put together a 5-0 run to end the first frame leading 26-19.

Sophomore guard Jordan King brought the game within five to open up the second quarter, but the Golden Eagles defense could not stop the Pirates high tempo offense. SHU broke through with a 12-2 run, to break open the game 33-21 at the 4:43 mark of the frame.

Marquette head coach Megan Duffy was forced to call a timeout with under two minutes left in the half as her team was down 37-21. Coming out of the timeout, redshirt senior forward Lauren Van Kleunen ended a close to eight-minute scoring drought. She made one-of-two free throws which added up to MU’s third point of the quarter with 1:06 remaining in the frame.

The Pirates held the Golden Eagles to just five points in the second quarter, which is equivalent to shooting 18.2% from the field, and headed into halftime with a definitive 42-26 lead.

MU began to settle in and find themselves in the third quarter as they opened the frame on a 8-3 run, forcing Seton Hall to call a timeout as the Golden Eagles brought the deficit within 11. Despite outscoring Seton Hall 26-24 and eight points from sophomore forward Camryn Taylor, MU could not stop graduate student guard Andra Espinoza-Hunter in the frame.

Espinoza-Hunter put on a show in the third quarter as she connected on four-of-five shots from beyond the arc which helped the Pirates enter the fourth quarter up 66-52.

After Seton Hall opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back jumpers from Park-Lane and senior forward Desiree Elmore, Marquette’s defense came up when much needed.

The Golden Eagles made some timely baskets to create a 11-0 run over a span of 4:10 to bring the Pirates lead within seven, the lowest it was since late in the first quarter.

Both teams then went onto experienced a brief scoring drought, keeping MU’s chances of pulling out a victory alive.

Despite their second-half surge and fourth-quarter run, the Golden Eagles were unable to overcome a 42-26 halftime deficit as Seton Hall went 7-for-7 at the free-throw line to end the game holding onto a 77-66 win.

SHU scored 27 points off of Duffy’s team’s 21 turnovers throughout the contest.

Van Kleunen led the way for the Golden Eagles with 13 points, shooting 6-for-10, while also collecting eight rebounds, two assists and a steal on the afternoon. The Mason, Ohio, native left the game at the 5:50 mark of the fourth quarter after suffering an injury on an offensive rebound attempt.

Valladay and Taylor both finished in double figures on the afternoon with 12 and 10 points respectively. King and Lott were held to eight and seven points respectively as they combined to shoot 6-for-21 on the afternoon. Lott, a All-BIG EAST Preseason Honoree, is now 63 points away from scoring 1,000 points in a Marquette uniform.

Espinoza-Hunter led the way for the Pirates with 25 points, shooting 8-for-16. The Mississippi State graduate transfer tied a season-high of seven 3-pointers while adding five rebounds and two steals to her stat line.

During the FloHoops broadcast, BIG EAST Digital Network announcer John Fanta mentioned the Golden Eagles were without their four first-year players – Liza Karlen, Danyel Middelton, Rose Nkumu, and Julianna Okosun. A Marquette Athletics spokesman told the Marquette Wire the first-years won’t be available this weekend due to COVID-19 Protocols.

Marquette (6-2, 3-1 BIG EAST) will stay out on the East Coast and travel to Queens, New York to take on the St. John’s Red Storm Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. EST. The game can be televised on FS1.

“We’re gonna have to play great transition defense and be very aware of those two stars on their team that can both have huge nights,” Duffy told the Marquette Wire on Tuesday during a Zoom press conference. “For us, especially since we’ve had the layoff and lack of practice, bouncing back and a quick turnaround is going to be big. Being able to withstand and get our legs back quickly on Sunday will be important.”

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