Golden Eagles Top DePaul, Claim BIG EAST Title
March 7, 2017
MILWAUKEE- All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention selection Natisha Hiedeman netted 28 points and shot 6-of-10 from downtown as the Marquette University women's basketball team defeated No. 1 seed DePaul, 86-78, to claim the BIG EAST Tournament Championship on Tuesday night at the Al McGuire Center.
With the triumph, Marquette (25-7) earns its first conference tournament title since joining the BIG EAST in advance of the 2004-05 campaign. The Golden Eagles also punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since reaching the second round in 2011. The win also pushes MU's record against teams ranked in the top-25 to a perfect 6-0 on the season.
With her six threes, Hiedeman set a Marquette program record for treys made in a BIG EAST Championship game. The Green Bay, Wis., native also produced the second highest scoring output by an MU player in conference tournament play, finishing one point shy of Krystal Ellis' record of 29. Behind her stellar performance, Hiedeman was named to the All-Tournament team.
Sophomore Amani Wilborn turned in her second consecutive 20-point effort in the win, potting 9-of-13 field goal attempts and adding 8 rebounds in the process. After etching her first career double-double in MU's quarterfinal victory over Georgetown, and scoring a career-high 21 points in the semifinal triumph over Creighton, Wilborn was dubbed the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
The Golden Eagles opened the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run to take control of the game and extend their lead to 66-58 with 7:03 left to play. All-Conference First Team member Allazia Blockton began the run by nailing a mid-range jumper, while a trey from McKayla Yentz pushed the MU lead to eight and forced DePaul head coach Doug Bruno to take a time out. Following that stretch, the Blue Demons never cut the MU lead below five.
No. 17/17 DePaul (27-6) made a late push as All-Tournament performer Jessica January potted 5 points in a three second span to cut the MU lead to 83-78 with 0:23 remaining. But time was the enemy for the Blue Demons, who were forced to play the fouling game and put Marquette on the line four times to seal the game.
The Blue Demons, who were BIG EAST regular season co-champions with Creighton, suffered just their third conference defeat of the season, all three of which came at the hands of head coach Carolyn Kieger's Golden Eagles. In the three meetings with DPU, Marquette posted a scoring average of 94.6 points, well surpassing DePaul's opponent ppg allowance of 66.4 points.
After a first half that featured nine lead changes and two ties, the Golden Eagles held a 42-40 advantage. Hiedeman led all scorers with 13 points, while Wilborn picked-up where she left off in the tournament semifinals, contributing 12 points and 5 boards before the break. January led the Blue Demons at the mid-way point, netting 12 points and dishing out four assists.
Hiedeman capped off an eventful first quarter with a half-court buzzer-beater to propel MU to a 25-24 lead at the first intermission. Both teams were scorching hot from the field in the opening frame as the Blue Demons shot 10-of-17 (.590), while MU went 10-for-20 (.500).
After clinching the BIG EAST's automatic NCAA Tournament bid, the Golden Eagles will wait to see where the NCAA places them when the tournament matchups are announced via the Selection Show on Monday, March 13 at 6 p.m. Central time.
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