Career night from Marotta keeps Marquette alive in the WNIT Tournament

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(Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

In its opening game of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, Marquette women’s basketball defeated Ball State 93-70 inside the Al McGuire Center Wednesday night.

“Thrilled to get first tournament win of the NIT in front of out home fans and home crowd,” Marquette head coach Megan Duffy said. “I thought we had a lot of great contributors tonight.”

As the trend has been in the Duffy Era, Marquette relied on its strong presence inside the paint winning the rebound battle 51-30.

“Coming into this game we really thought we had the advantage on the boards, offensively and defensively,” Duffy said. “Its kind of been our mindset and our bread and butter all year long.”

Both teams opened up the first quarter trading basket for basket. Then graduate student guard Karissa McLaughlin hit a 3-pointer with 5:26 on the clock to send the Golden Eagles into the under-five media timeout leading 10-6.

Following the timeout Ball State got into a full-court press which forced back-to-back Golden Eagle turnovers.

“We just made a couple poor decisions, but then once we settled into it we were really good moving the basketball and changing sides of the floor,” Duffy said.

Going into the second quarter, the Golden Eagles led 21-18 after scoring the final four points in the first frame.

Marquette was able to keep its momentum in the second as they went on a 14-4 scoring run to increase its lead. In that run, McLaughlin hit two 3-pointers while fellow graduate student forward Lauren Van Kleunen added six points.

“For Karissa McLaughlin and Lauren, they’re playing teams that they don’t really know them, so the whole season they’re getting triple teamed, double teamed, face guarded the whole time,” senior forward Chloe Marotta said. “That always pumps up the team and that was a great run for us.”

Ball State senior forward Thelma Dis Agustsdottir ended Marquette’s run when she was fouled while attempted a 3-pointer. Dis Agustsdottir finished the four point play following the under-five media timeout as the Cardinals trailed 35-28.

From that point on the Golden Eagles outscored the Cardinals 9-7 to head into halftime leading 44-35 lead.

Marquette continued to extend its lead in the third quarter but not until the final 1:26 of the quarter.

Until that point both teams once again traded basket for basket before the Golden Eagles closed the quarter on a 9-2 run, with the final five points coming from junior guard Antwainette Walker.

“We just kept saying put our foot on the gas,” Duffy said. “I thought Antwainette and Danny (Middleton) were really great sparks off the bench.”

In the final frame, Marquette went on cruise control jumping out to its largest lead of the game at 88-60 at one point.

As a team, the Golden Eagles shot nearly 50% from the field, finishing the game 36-for-74 from the field and 7-for14 from three.

Leading the way in the scoring department for Marquette was McLaughlin who finished with 24 points and six assists.

Marotta had a career night as she finished with a season-high 19 points and a career-high 17 rebounds.

“A lot of (it) just dropped in my hands a little bit,” Marotta said. “When the ball goes in it’s great, when it doesn’t we gotta go up and get that rebound and I was fortunate to be in the right positions tonight.

For the Cardinals, they were led by first year guard Ally Becki who finished the game with 22 points, four rebounds and two assists.

Marquette will have four days to prepare for their second round WNIT matchup against Purdue Monday at 7 p.m. CST inside the Al McGuire Center.

“We’re going to find that right balance of rest and cleaning up a few things from today’s game,” Duffy said. “This is the greatest time of the year you can sleep in April.”

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