Women's College Basketball

UConn Downs Marquette, Big East Finals Bound


UConn forward Nika Muhl drives through traffic for a layup during Sunday’s Big East semifinal round game at Mohegan Sun Arena. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

The UConn women’s basketball team got their redemption against the Marquette University Golden Eagles on Sunday in the semifinal round of the Big East tournament. Back on Feb. 8, Marquette got the better of the Huskies by a score of 59-52, which would be the first of two losses UConn faced against conference teams. Sunday, the No. 1 seed Huskies buried the fifth-seeded Golden Eagles 81-52 and will advance to tomorrow’s championship game against the winner of the Villanova-Creighton game.

Husky guard Lou Lopez-Senechal got the scoring started with a jump shot, which was promptly answered by Golden Eagles forward Liza Karlen, who took advantage of a mismatch to tie the score 2-2.

UConn then made a 7-0 run in the next two minutes, taking a 9-2 lead which forced Marquette head coach Megan Duffy to call a timeout with 6:56 remaining in the first quarter.

The Golden Eagles spent the rest of the quarter trying to chip away at the deficit. Guard Emily LaChapell scored on a driving layup to break the UConn run, followed by a three-pointer by guard Rose Nkumu, plus a jumper and a trey by Karlen. The Huskies still led 20-12 at the end of the first quarter.

Marquette’s woes continued when forward Chloe Marotta picked up an offensive foul just ten seconds into the quarter, her second foul of the game, which forced her to the bench.

Husky forward Aaliyah Edwards scored on a spin move that was followed by a layup to push the lead to 22-12, which was followed by an uncontested three-pointer by Lopez-Senechal to put UConn up by 13 with 8:36 left in the half.

Marquette came crawling back with an 8-0 run of their own as guards Jordan King and Mackenzie Hare each hit three-pointers, and Karlen scored on a layup. UConn head coach Geno Auriemma called a timeout as the Golden Eagles had trimmed their deficit to five, the score being 25-20 with 4:36 on the clock before halftime.

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma gives instructions to forward Aaliyah Edwards during Sunday’s Big East semifinal round game against Marquette at Mohegan Sun Arena. Edwards 20 points and 12 rebounds led the way for UConn. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

Whatever Auriemma told his team in the timeout must have been inspiring because the Huskies closed out the remainder of the half on a 12-2 run with a layup by forward Dorka Juasz, a jumper and a layup by Edwards, and two free throws by Lopez-Senechal, along with an offensive rebound and put-back by guard Aubrey Griffin. UConn took a 37-22 lead into halftime. Karlen’s 11-points amounted to half of Marquette’s total scoring.

Coming out of the locker room to begin the second half, LaChapell connected on a jumper to end Marquette’s nearly four minute scoring drought. However, UConn was quick to respond with a 6-0 run, which pushed the score up to 43-24 in favor of the Huskies with 8:57 remaining in the third quarter.

After a timeout by Marquette, UConn pushed the scoring pedal to the floor even further. When the quarter ended, the Huskies had a commanding 61-36 lead as the two leading Golden Eagles, Karlen and Marotta, spent time on the bench in foul trouble.

The Golden Eagles attempted one last comeback in the fourth quarter but each time they scored, UConn promptly answered. It was apparent fairly early that this was not going to be a repeat of the Feb. 8 upset. At one point in the quarter, UConn had scored more points in the paint than Marquette had points on the scoreboard.

When the final buzzer sounded, UConn won the contest 81-52. It was UConn’s 29th conference tournament victory, which enabled them to advance to their 12th straight conference championship game.

UConn shot 49.3 percent from the field on 33-for-67 shooting, converted only five of their 20 three-point attempts, and connected on 10 of their 13 free throw attempts. Aaliyah Edwards led all scorers with 20 points, Lou Lopez-Senechal and Dorka Juhasz each added 14. Edwards grabbed 12 rebounds and Juhasz pulled down 11 to lead the Huskies.

The Golden Eagles shot 30.2 percent on 19-for-63 shooting, went 9-for-26 beyond the arc, and converted 5-of-6 free throw attempts. Liza Karlen led Marquette with 18 points while Mackenzie Hare pitched in with 15. Chloe Marotta led her team in rebounding with eight boards.

“I felt like that was the UConn of March we’re used to seeing. I thought they were absolutely tremendous right out of the gate,” said Marquette head coach Megan Duffy. “Our defense was not up to our standards, but I think a lot of that was what UConn did.”

Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma acknowledged that his defense made the difference in the game.

“So all of our offense, all those 81 points came almost directly off of what we were doing defensively. And that wasn’t the case towards the end of the season with everybody. That’s why our point production went way down. We went from being in the 80s all the time to then we’re down in the 60s for six or seven games or whatever it was. That’s because we weren’t making anything happen on the defensive end. And that’s been a big difference the last two days,” Auriemma said.

Marquette forward Liza Karlen led the Golden Eagles effort with 18 points and 5 rebounds during Sunday’s Big East semifinal game against UConn at Mohegan Sun Arena. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

UConn scored 48 points in the paint, four shy of matching Marquette’s points total. Dorka Juhasz and Aaliyah Edwards each finished with double-doubles, which set the tone for the Huskies domination inside.

“It’s been very important for us to kind of dominate the paint. I think that Dorka, me and
Aubrey [Griffin] really did well on the boards, and just converting down low. I think that our teammates did well finding us and we were able to put the ball in. I think we just need to continue this for tomorrow and throughout March,” said Edwards.

As for the Golden Eagles, Duffy notes how the steady presence of Karlen has made a difference in this tournament.

“She [Karlen] got off to a great start and just playing some great basketball. She had a heck of an injury with her mouth and jaw. And could have been a season-ending injury and [she] battled through that. Now she’s getting her legs under her,” said Duffy. “Maybe she’s fresher than most people. But just was steady with her shooting, and just really happy for that kid to find some positive basketball here late in the season.”

UConn will face the winner of the Creighton-Villanova game for the Big East championship tomorrow. Marquette will wait to see if they get an invite to the NCAA Tournament.

Recommended for you