The Marquette women’s basketball team clinched a first round bye in the BIG EAST Tournament on Monday after defeating the Creighton Bluejays 65-41 on “Play4Kay Night” and Senior Night at the Al McGuire Center.
“Really proud of our team’s effort tonight,” Marquette head coach Megan Duffy said. “We really categorized this as the biggest game of the season, finishing up our home games of the season. Just overall really thrilled with our defense. I thought our defense on (Temi) Carda was tremendous. I thought we limited they’re easy threes. I just overall thought we were communicating, flying around and Creighton’s offense is very difficult to guard.”
It is the fourth straight year the Golden Eagles have earned a first round bye in the tournament, the second straight under Duffy.
Marquette got out to an early lead thanks to redshirt senior forward Lauren Van Kleunen and senior guard Selena Lott.
The Golden Eagles edged a 10-5 lead in the first frame that forced Creighton head coach Jim Flanery to burn a timeout.
The senior duo of Van Kleunen and Lott helped put together a 14-2 MU run over the last 7:22 of the first to send the team into the second quarter with a 18-5 lead. All of MU’s 18 points came from Van Kleunen and Lott.
“We knew it was gonna be a grind on the defensive and offensive end the way that they pack the paint,” Van Kleunen said. “I knew I had to step up and hit shots too, and I felt real confident once the game got started.”
MU held Creighton to shoot 15.4% from the field in the frame and forced five turnovers.
“(Creighton doesn’t) stop moving. It’s just constant movement (and) you got to communicate for 40 minutes,” Van Kleunen said. “One of our keys for this game was grind for 40 (minutes) and I think that’s just huge for us. You know, you can’t relax and if you do, they’re gonna make you pay for it. So we understood we had to be extremely locked in. We were feeling very confident coming into this game and understanding that defense is going to win games and that’s what it did tonight.”
Despite being narrowly outscored in the second quarter, 17 to 15, the Golden Eagles headed into halftime leading the Blue Jays, 33-22.
Lott collected eight assists, four steals and two blocks through the first 20 minutes.
“Selena has always been very good at helping us in different ways. I think she’s really starting to buy in, as we kind of come towards the end of the season, of different ways defensively she can make an impact,” Duffy said. “She’s a playmaker for us I always call her that. Thought she was super engaged and it’s Selena being Selena in a lot of ways.”
Quarter three was another fast start for MU, as they put together a 10-2 run over a span of four minutes to break the game open 43-26 at the under-five media timeout.
Despite Creighton’s first-year forward Emma Ronsiek hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer, the Golden Eagles had dominant 52-33 lead heading into the fourth.
MU was able to put some distance between the teams over the final 10 minutes and walk away with 65-41 victory to sweep the regular season series against Creighton.
Van Kleunen led Marquette with 20 points, shooting 9-for-14 from the field while adding five rebounds and an assist. The Mason, Ohio, native is inching closer to the 1,000 career point milestone, now just 41 points away.
“Lauren was just awesome today rebounding and finishing her shots,” Duffy said. “I thought she really improved from the first time we played Creighton. I thought she struggled a little bit out there with her shot and reading their double teams, but she was on point tonight with with all of that.”
Sophomore guard Camryn Taylor and Lott both finished in double digits with 14 points and 10 points, respectively. Lott also added five rebounds, 11 assists, six steals and three blocks. The Troy, New York, native is now one steal away from being tied ninth all-time in program history for steals.
Creighton was led by Rosnik’s 10 points while Morgan Maly added eight.
The Golden Eagles held the Bluejays to their lowest scoring outing of the season, holding CU 29.4% shooting from the field and 28.6% from beyond the arc.
Next up for Marquette (16-4, 13-3 BIG EAST) will be on a two-game road trip to finish out the season against No. 24 DePaul and No.1 UConn.
The Golden Eagles will search for a conference best, 11th road win of the season on Wednesday vs the Blue Demons at 4 p.m. CST.
“We have a road warrior mentality when we go on the road and with these last few games it’s exactly what we have to have,” Van Kleunen said. “It’s for BIG EAST play and going into the BIG EAST tournament, it’s gonna be important going with that momentum too. So it’s very exciting. You want to be in these games. So it’s very exciting to finish up our season like this.”
Meanwhile, for Duffy, the quick turnaround in games is preparation for the BIG EAST Tournament and hopefully the NCAA Tournament.
“We’ve had a couple stretches where we’ve had a high volume of games in a short amount of time,” Duffy said. “So it really prepares us for the tournament of just going back to back to back. I know our team gets excited obviously to play DePaul. (It) was a very close game the first matchup and DePaul’s coming off a loss to Creighton with a little extra time arrest, I think they will be fired up.”
This article was written by John Leuzzi. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JohnLeuzziMU.