Composure down the stretch leads Marquette to win over St. John’s

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Photo by Collin Nawrocki

Graduate student forward Lauren Van Kleuen after a basket in Marquette women’s basketball’s 79-75 win over St. John’s Feb. 27.

Behind a strong performance from “super seniors” Lauren Van Kleunen and Karissa McLaughlin,  Marquette women’s basketball concluded its regular season with a 79-75 win over St. John’s Sunday afternoon at the Al McGuire Center.

Prior to the game, the team honored its three seniors — Van Kleunen, McLaughlin and Anwainette Walker — with a Senior Night ceremony.

“Awesome win tonight on senior night,” Marquette head coach Megan Duffy said. ‘Thought we were tremendous keeping our poise hangin in there. For us to play three games in five days at the end of the season that’s a grind out of itself. Extremely pleased about the effort of our seniors, and just enough down the stretch to make big plays.”

St. John’s jumped out to an early 10-4 lead in the opening minutes of the first quarter after graduate student guard Camree Claig and senior forward Danielle Cosgrove both hit 3-pointers early on.

After the under-five media timeout, the Golden Eagles went on a run of their own to close the quarter and head into the second trailing just by four 22-18.

Two minutes into the second frame, McLaughlin sparked a 13-3 run for Marquette when she hit her first 3-pointer of the afternoon to tie the game at 25-25.

However, after the first media timeout, the Golden Eagles were able to go on a run of their own and close the lead to three with little time left in the first quarter, they went into the second quarter trailing by four, 22-18.

Sophomore guard Danyel Middleton scored quickly coming off the bench as she hit a 3-pointer of her own with five minutes left in the second quarter to put the Golden Eagles up four.

Then on the defensive end, Middleton caused a turnover which she turned into two more points as she went coast to coast to give Marquette an eight-point lead.

“Thought she was great with her energy, hit a couple shots, got a couple steals,” Duffy said. “Any small plays like that turn into huge momentum swings. Thought she really helped us.”

Van Kleunen said Middleton’s energy helps lead the team.

“She was unbelievable, just her activity lead to deflections and then the offensive end. She just plays with that swagger, it’s a heck of a lot of fun to be able to be her teammate. I wouldn’t want to be on the other side of that I can tell you that,” Van Kleunen said. “But just her pace, her demanding has just been great.”

In the winding minutes of the half, the Johnnie’s closed the Golden Eagles’ lead to only two points going into the half, trailing 42-40.

The Red Storm committed seven turnovers in the first half, whereas Marquette only had three at the half.

The third quarter was a defensive battle for both teams as neither side could find the bottom of the net for a little over two minutes. Marquette went into the final period of the game up by three after sophomore forward Liza Karlen hit a mid-range jumper with 36 seconds remaining.

As the season trend as been, the Golden Eagles once again found themselves in a close-game situation down the stretch heading into the fourth.

Van Kleunen said the goal for the team was to keep their composure in the final 10 minutes.

“We have been in a lot of close games and just the grittiness to come out with the win is huge,” Van Kleunen said. “Whether that is getting defensive stops, great shots, Liza stepped up, Karissa stepped up, just phenomenal shots and our pace out of stuff was huge.”

Marquette started out the final quarter building up their lead up to nine within the first three minutes of the frame forcing St. John’s to call a timeout.

Coming out of its timeout, St. John’s closed the gap quickly making the score 63-61 after junior guard Leilani Correa hit a jumper inside the paint with 4:14 to go.

With 25 seconds left, Correa hit a 3-pointer to close the deficit to three,  but it as not enough as the Golden Eagles four combined free-throws from junior guard Jordan King and McLaughlin along with a block from senior forward Chloe Marotta sealed the win for Marquette.

Van Kleunen and McLaughlin combined for 41 of Marquette’s 79 points on the afternoon with 22 and 19 respectively. In addition to 22 points, Van Kleunen added four rebounds and three assists while McLaughlin added two rebounds and three assist.

Karlen finished with another double-double, 15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

On the afternoon, Marquette recorded a season high seven blocks.

Marquette (20-9, 13-7 BIG EAST) will now head to Uncasville, Connecticut to face off against rival DePaul in the BIG EAST Tournament Quarterfinals Saturday at 1:30 p.m. CST at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

“We are going to get some rest. Get off our feet a little bit and get them honed into class. A DePaul-Marquette round three, we might as well have a little fun with it,” Duffy said.

This article was written by Kelly Reilly. She can be reached at kelly.reilly@marquette.edu or found on Twitter @kellyreillyyy.