Marquette falls to No. 7 UConn in BIG EAST Tournament semifinals

Marquette+womens+basketball+fell+to+No.+7+UConn+in+the+BIG+EAST+Tournament+semifinals+March+6.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Ben+Soloman.%29

Marquette women’s basketball fell to No. 7 UConn in the BIG EAST Tournament semifinals March 6. (Photo courtesy of Ben Soloman.)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – The Marquette women’s basketball team’s streak of five-straight appearances in the BIG EAST Tournament finals came to an end Sunday afternoon after 71-51 loss to No. 7 UConn in the semifinals at Mohegan Sun Arena.

“Obviously that first quarter they (UConn) came out, just threw I think every punch we could handle,” Marquette head coach Megan Duffy said. “Their defense was tremendous. Thought we had some good offensive looks in that first quarter but were unable to make them.”

UConn opened the game throwing the first punch as Duffy said with a 7-0 scoring run forcing her to call timeout just over two minutes into the game. Following the timeout junior guard Jordan King scored the first basket for Marquette.

From there, the Golden Eagles finished 3-for-19 from the field in the first quarter, missing a mix of wide open and heavily contested shots. The Huskies went 10-for-15 from the field and 2-for-3 from 3-point range.

Duffy said Marquette’s poor shooting effort translated into UConn’s offense getting open looks.

“In that first quarter we were definitely very cold and that led them to getting kind of anything they wanted in that first quarter,” Duffy said.

UConn was able to keep its offense flowing starting the second quarter on an 11-0 scoring run, totaling a 19-0 run that stemmed from the first quarter.

Marquette ended the run with a basket from sophomore forward Liza Karlen as the Golden Eagle offense started to pick up some steam. Following the under-five media timeout, Marquette outscored UConn 5-4 and held the Huskies scoreless the final 2:14 of the half.

At halftime Marquette trailed UConn 39-18 and shot 8-for-36 from the field. The Huskies were able to make more than half their shots in the half, going 17-for-32 from the field.

After being held scoreless in the first half, graduate student forward Lauren Van Kleunen came out and scored the Golden Eagles first seven points in the third quarter.

The Golden Eagles then would go on an over five-minute scoring drought, failing to score another basket until the 2:17 mark of the third quarter.

In that time, UConn scored 12 straight points including back-to-back three’s from redshirt senior guard Evina Westbrook. Marquette subsequently called timeout before finishing the quarter outscoring UConn 5-4, including a three from graduate student guard Karissa McLaughlin.

The final frame opened with sophomore guard Danyel Middleton getting a steal and a fast break layup to start a 5-0 scoring run for the Golden Eagles. Marquette continued to make shots and outscored UConn 9-2 over the first 3:32 of the quarter.

“Towards the end, the last 15 minutes I think we really competed at the level we wanted to,” McLaughlin said.

The Golden Eagles found themselves in a whole too big too dig out of going into the second half, but were ultimately able to outscore the Huskies in the second half, 33-32.

Overall Marquette shot 20-for-64 from the field and 5-for-7 from the 3-point range.

McLaughlin led the way in scoring for Marquette, playing the whole game and scoring 15 points. She also added two assists and a rebound as well.

“I think Coach Duffy just wants her scorers and play makers to stay aggressive,” McLaughlin said. “I was just doing everything I could to keep my team in it.”

In her final BIG EAST Tournament game Van Kleunen scored nine points, grabbed six rebounds and had one assist.

“I’ve been so lucky to be her coach for a couple years,” Duffy said. “Just the last really two weeks of the season, the way she’s been completely, literally giving every ounce of what’s left in her energy wise.”

UConn finished the night shooting 50% from the field making 29 of 58 field goals and going 7-for-18 from three point range.

Westbrook led the way for the Huskies, finishing the game with 14 points, four rebounds and 2 assists all while coming off the bench.

Marquette (21-10, 13-7 BIG EAST) will now wait to see where and if its season will continue, as the NCAA Selection Committee will decide the NCAA Tournament fate for the Golden Eagles. The fields for both the NCAA Tournament and the WNIT will be announced March 13.

This article was written by Ben Schultz. He can be reached at benjamin.a.schultz@marquette.edu or on Twitter @benschultz52.