The Marquette Golden Eagles (12-11, 4-6) had to respond well Sunday against Villanova (16-7, 5-5) after a blowout loss at Connecticut last week. Led by junior Katherine Plouffe and senior Sarnia Simmons, the Golden Eagles defeated the Wildcats 60-56 in a thriller.
Plouffe started to emerge as the go-to-scorer for the Golden Eagles late in the first half, but foul trouble led her to the bench. With Plouffe out, Simmons stepped up and starting making clutch baskets. When the game reached the final stretch, both were contributing on every play.
“Free throws are a very mental part of the game, especially down the stretch,” Plouffe said. “So I was just trying to calm myself down, focus on my follow through…in those pressure situations, you just have to remind yourself you made those shots a hundred times before.”
The turning point in the game was the 5:45 mark in the second half. The game was tied, and the Golden Eagles had been trading points with the Wildcats all half. Then freshman Brooklyn Pumroy passed to Plouffe, who made the layup to put Marquette up by two. The Golden Eagles never trailed again.
“It was a play that we had done in practice before and in shootaround,” Plouffe said. “It was just being confident that I’d make that shot when coach called it.”
The second half of the game was much different than first. In the first, the teams combined for 76 points, and both teams were shooting above 55 percent from the field. In the second, Marquette had the better percentage at just 32 percent. Villanova went 0-for-12 on three point attempts. Marquette had an assist-to-turnover ratio of less than one in the second, compared to the three it had in the first half.
“When we talked at halftime, we knew it was going to come down to defense (and) who could make more stops,” Coach Terri Mitchell said.
Plouffe said she and the rest of the team made sure the halftime speech came true.
“We knew that we were getting good looks on offense, but it was going to come down to defense,” Plouffe said. “It was going to come down to who got more stops and who was going to shut the other team down.”
The Golden Eagles were also able to win because of how they attacked the glass and took care of the ball. Marquette had 42 rebounds on the day with only 10 turnovers, and of those 42 rebounds, 13 were offensive. While Villanova only had 27 rebounds, the team limited its turnovers to five.
“When I look at this game, I can tell you rebounding was the difference,” Mitchell said. “We got some huge offensive boards, so we could keep the ball on offense.”
Marquette will end its three game road trip at Cincinnati on Wednesday. The Bearcats have yet to win a Big East game, but the Golden Eagles can’t overlook what could be a tough road game.
“Every Big East team and every game, anyone can win,” Plouffe said. “It’s definitely a game we want to get for ourselves and get a little momentum.”