Dec. 19, 2012
MILWAUKEE, Wis. - Field goals on four consecutive possessions with less than five minutes remaining in the game allowed Marquette to turn a two-point lead over the Navy women's basketball team into a nine-point cushion and let the Golden Eagles hang on for a 73-65 victory over the Midshipmen Wednesday afternoon at the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee, Wis.
Marquette (5-5) held just a two-point advantage on Navy (6-6) after Audrey Bauer (Jr., Lake Zurich, Ill.) made the second of her two free throw attempts with 4:57 left to play in the game. Marquette's Arlesia Morse would miss a jumper on the ensuing possession, but the errant carom was grabbed by teammate Lauren Tibbs when the 6-4 center stretched her arms up and over those of Navy's 5-9 guard Alix Membreno (Jr., Loxahatchee, Fla.) who had inside position on Tibbs for the rebound. Tibbs would go right back up with the ball for a layup with Membreno bodying her in the process. She would make the free throw to convert the three-point play that stretched the Marquette lead out to 63-58 with 4:41 left on the clock.
Membreno was able to respond on the next Navy possession with a layup, but Marquette gained those two points back when Cristina Bigica made a short jumper in the paint with just over four minutes remaining in the game. Kara Pollinger (Jr., Fort Gay, W.Va.) would miss a shot on Navy's next trip down the floor, with Marquette's Katie Young grabbing the carom. Young would then quickly find Tibbs for another layup that stretched the advantage for the Golden Eagles out to 67-60 with 3:37 left to play.
The Mids had two chances to score on their next trip before Aplew Ojulu picked up a loose ball and fed Katherine Plouffe on the fastbreak to give Marquette a 69-60 lead at the three-minute mark. Both teams missed shots on their respective possessions, then Pollinger hit a three-pointer to make it a six-point game with 1:50 left to play. Marquette's Sarina Simmons answered with a jumper to give the Golden Eagles a 71-63 lead with 1:24 remaining in the game. Another steal by Young ended Navy's next offensive opportunity, then Young was fouled with 65 seconds left to play. She made both attempts from the charity stripe to give Marquette its largest lead of the game at 73-63.
"I was really pleased with our team's execution and confidence at times," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper
. "We talked before the game that when Marquette went on a run we had to match it. I thought we did that pretty well. When you play a team like this, you have to be sharp for 40 minutes. We knew that we really had to execute and even when you execute, sometimes the other team is just too good. I think ultimately that is what helped Marquette late in te game and I want to credit them for that."
Navy had held a slim lead for most of the opening minutes of the game. Marquette soon took a lead of 19-13, which Navy whittled down to one point at 21-20. However, five-straight points by the Golden Eagles gave them a 26-20 lead. The teams traded field goals over the next six minutes as the margin never shrunk below four points yet never grew to more than six points. Marquette would hold its last six-point cushion of the half at 36-30 with just over two minutes remaining, but the Mids closed the frame on a 6-0 run to knot the score at 36-36 at the break.
Offense dominated the first half for both teams. Marquette connected on 62.5 percent of its field goal attempts, but that mark was the lower one of the two teams as Navy converted on 65.4 percent of its shots from the floor. The only aspect of the game that lessened the scoring for either team was turnovers as the Mids committed 11 of them and forced the Golden Eagles into 12.
It took several possessions for either team to score at the start of the second half, with Bauer eventually connecting on a three-pointer to opening the scoring. After a pair of missed shots on the next Marquette possession, Bauer drilled another triple to give Navy a 42-36 lead and cap a 12-0 run back to the end of the first half.
Navy's held a lead of between three and six points for the next six minutes until a layup by Simmons winnowed the margin down to one point. Navy missed three-point attempts on each of its next two possessions, with Marquette scoring on short jumpers on each of their respective trips down the floor to give the Golden Eagles a 49-46 lead with 11 minutes left to play. The Mids answered with back-to-back triples that gave them a 52-51 lead with 9:44 remaining in the game. Young responded with a three-point field goal of her own to give Marquette a 54-52 lead, but that was soon followed by Membreno scoring on a layup to tie the score at 54-54 with less than nine minutes remaining in the game. An Ojulu jumper broke the tie 30 seconds later.
Navy weather shooting struggles over the next several minutes with its defensive play. A missed shot by Jade Geif (Jr., Lakeville, Minn.) was gathered in by Pollinger, who was fouled while attempting a shot of her own. She would miss both attempts from the free throw line. Navy forced Marquette into a turnover, then Membreo was sent to the line after being fouled while attempting a shot. She too missed both attempts. Marquette was one shot and done on its next trip, then Bauer missed a three-point attempt for Navy. Simmons ended a nearly three-minute scoring drought for Marquette with a jumper, but that was followed by a three pointer from Pollinger that made it a one-point game at 58-57 with 6:29 left on the clock.
Membreno promptly stole the ball to end Marquette's next opportunity to stretch its lead, but she missed a twisting layup attempted around the 6-foot, 3-inch Plouffe, who grabbed the loose ball on one end of the court before missing a shot, grabbing her own carom and scoring a second-chance bucket on the other to give Marquette a 60-57 lead.
Both teams missed shots on their next respective trips, then Bauer was fouled while attempting a shot. She missed her first attempt -- Navy's fifth in a row in a span of little more than three minutes -- before making her second that made the score 60-58 with 4:57 remaining in the game.
"I really liked our effort, and I definitely credit Marquette," said Pemper. "I thought in the end they made the plays they needed to make, whether it was offensive rebounds or hitting shots or sinking free throws, and defensively they really pressured us. I definitely feel they beat us.
"We missed some free throws we needed to make at a critical time in the second half. We just couldn't get some stops by keeping them off the boards at an important time. I'm just excited to go into this holiday break. I think our players deserve the break. Our next game is really tough (Marshall). I think we are at a good place even though we are coming off of a loss, but I am excited to get back with the team afterward."
The two offenses slowed down somewhat in the second half from the torrid pace set in the first half. Navy shot a more then respectable 40.7 percent from the floor after halftime, but Marquette made 48.5 percent of its second-half field goal attempts. For the game, Navy made 52.8 of its shots in all, which was not only a season high but also the fourth-highest mark posted by the Mids in the five seasons under Pemper. Conversely, the field goal percentage of 54.4 percent recorded by Marquette also was a season high allowed by the Mids as well as the second-highest percentage allowed by Navy in the Pemper era.
Navy ended the game with 8 three-point field goals made on 24 attempts (33.3%), with Marquette sinking just 4 triples in 11 attempts (36.4%). The Golden Eagles also were 7 of 10 (70%) from the free throw line while the Mids were only 1 of 9 (11.1%) from the charity stripe.
Marquette also held rebounding advantages over Navy by the count of 15-10 in offensive caroms and 34-23 overall. The Golden Eagles tallied 44 points in the paint to 30 by the Mids, held a 15-7 edge in fastbreak points and scored 30 bench points to just 7 for Navy.
Helping Marquette to its strong shooting was Plouffe, who made 11 of 15 attempts in the game and scored 17 of her game-high 23 points in the second half. Simmons also shot the ball well as she made 5 of her 9 attempts from the floor in scoring 11 points. Young also reached double figures in points for the Golden Eagles as she tallied 13 on the day.
Membreno led Navy's offensive efforts with 19 points on 9 of 14 shooting from the floor. She would also add a Navy-high six rebounds and tie Pollinger for assist honors in the game with five. Pollinger and Bauer both contributed 13 points to the Navy effort, with Geif adding 10 points and Erin Meador (So., Clifton, Va.) hitting all three of her field goal attempts on her way to scoring a career-high seven points.
"We did a lot of things well," said Pemper. "Offensively, I'm thrilled with scoring 65 points and shooting over 50 percent for the game. Really pleased with Alix's effort. Just reading her stat line of 19 points, four offensive rebounds, five assists and one turnover is great.
"I really want to credit Erin. She was really tough tonight. She handled the pressure and had a couple of nice assists, crashed the boards, saw the floor well; I was really pleased with her."
Navy now breaks for the Christmas holiday before resuming its season by playing host to Marshall on Dec. 30.
"I think one of the takeaways was that our bench, unfortunately, wasn't great tonight," said Pemper. "When you play a really good team, they are going to make it tough on everyone so your bench is arguably going to be more challenged. But we had some games in which our bench was a critical part of some big wins, so it is unfortunate that going into this long break our bench didn't make a difference in a positive way. So that will be big for us in January, having all 13 people contributing, and I really like our team and I think we can have that."