INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Marquette found the boost it needed when the Golden Eagles needed it most.
The high energy style of play, “the juice,” as Marquette coach Carolyn Kieger and her Golden Eagles call it, was missing from their first half performance on Sunday.
But unfortunately for Butler, No.10 Marquette found it during a spirited halftime revival and Natisha Hiedeman went on to score 21 points on the way to an 87-58 victory over the Bulldogs on Sunday.
“Our message at halftime was a lot. We didn’t have the energy — we call it the juice — and we didn’t have it,” Kieger said. “Butler, I mean, (they’ve) done a phenomenal job. They make you play (hard) … I thought we fell into their game plan in that second quarter. We were able to go regroup. I really credit our team’s maturity. We were able to regroup, get our wind back, and I think that’s the difference between this year and last year.”
Road wins count double, Kieger said, referring to the difficulty of playing in the Big East away from home. The fifth-year Golden Eagles coach might be onto something.
Marquette used up whatever juice they had in the first half just to keep Butler at a distance. Butler trailed 14-4 early, but managed to outscore Marquette 25-15 over a 10-minute stretch of basketball that tied the game at 29 in the second quarter.
Marquette answered with big shots in big moments during the final minutes of the first half and took a 36-31 lead into halftime.
The Golden Eagles found the juice they were looking for in the form of a scoring onslaught and tenacious defense in the third quarter. Marquette outscored the Bulldogs 30-13 in the third quarter to take a commanding 66-44 lead into the final period. Amani Wilborn finished with 13 points and Allazia Blockton scored 16 points for Marquette (18-3, 9-0 Big East). Hiedeman’s success scoring the basketball was not exclusive to her stat line, Kieger said. The senior guard creates for her teammates because of the threat she poses to the defense.
“(Versatility) is making (Hiedeman) so hard to guard right now. She’s able to pass, she’s able to rebound, she’s able to defend. She’s really versatile and I think she’s playing like one of the best guards in the country,” Kieger said. “She’s setting (her teammates) up, as well.”
Kristen Spolyar led Butler with 13 points. Emilia Sexton scored 11 points off the bench for the Bulldogs (16-4, 9-2). Butler didn’t lay down. The Bulldogs continued to show yet again the progress the program is making under fifth year coach Kurt Godlevske. The difference on Sunday was missing on open opportunities and simply not getting stops when Butler needed them most, Godlevske said.
“I thought we got the open looks that we needed,” Godlevske said. “I think that they ramped up their intensity, really got into us and forced us out of what we were doing in the second quarter. That seemed to get us a little bit frustrated and (we weren’t) disciplined enough to execute what we needed to offensively . they’re just a really good basketball team that’s tough to defend and we only did it for about a quarter tonight.”
SCARY MOMENT: Butler junior forward Katherine Strong left the game in the third quarter with her left leg in an air cast after falling hard when she came down from a rebound attempt. Butler trainers huddled around her for several minutes while they prepared the cast and carried her off the floor. No update was provided on the extent of the injury.
BIG PICTURE: After knocking off the No. 2 team in the Big East, Marquette will now set its sights on the No. 3 slotted team in DePaul. The Golden Eagles, still undefeated in conference play, will face Butler one more time this season before the conference tournament when the Bulldogs travel to Marquette on Feb. 22.