The Marquette women’s basketball team pulled off a win Tuesday that was particularly impressive for a team that’s still working on discovering its identity. Junior forward Sarina Simmons gave Marquette fans a glimpse of what that identity might be in the Golden Eagles’ 54-52 victory over in-state rival Wisconsin-Madison.
As a player who had displayed inconsistency her first two years, Simmons was matched against Wisconsin junior guard Taylor Wurtz. Wurtz had already established herself as the Badgers’ leading scorer and rebounder over the first two games, while Simmons came into the matchup still looking for that defining game.
What followed was arguably Simmons’s best game of her Marquette career, as she led the Golden Eagles with a career-high 23 points. She scored when her team needed it most, especially in the final minutes.
Simmons was a big factor in Marquette’s opening 12-3 run, accumulating two steals, grabbing three rebounds and scoring six points in the first seven minutes of the game.
When Wisconsin rallied to take a 31-25 lead early in the second half, Simmons responded with a layup to cut the deficit to four points and later tied the game at 35-35 with a 3-pointer with 13:36 left to go.
With the Golden Eagles up 50-49 with 46 seconds left, Simmons made it a three point lead with a layup, despite three Badger defenders standing in her way. After Wurtz missed what would’ve been a game-tying three, Simmons battled for the rebound, drew a foul and hit both of her free throws to make it a two-possession game with 5.9 seconds left.
“I had a lot of momentum behind me in the final minutes, and my teammates looked to me and got me open,” Simmons said. “We go through situations like that in practice and (coach Terri Mitchell) had told us to execute and believe that we could go out and get it.”
Mitchell understood that other players could score, but wanted to give her only upperclassman the opportunity to win the game.
“Sarina (Simmons) wanted the ball, and out of time outs she was asking for plays,” Mitchell said. “She’s part of a whole team that played their guts out tonight, and I’m proud of her teammates for finding her and getting her the ball.”
Simmons said matching up with Wurtz at the guard position was no easy task.
“They ran (Wurtz) through a lot of screens, and I couldn’t stand flat and had to be on my toes,” Simmons said. “I still had to contribute to the help defense too, and help collapse on their post players when they isolated them on the blocks.”
Starting the year off with a career performance against a rival is a huge step for Simmons. Mitchell has stressed that everyone, even the freshmen, have to step up and contribute this season, and Simmons thus far has provided a model for what the younger players should be. Marquette is still trying to find out who it will be when the Big East season begins, and Mitchell said this win will be a positive starting point for both the team overall and Simmons as an individual.