Coral Gables, FL — On Monday, the NCAA women’s basketball tournament bracket was released and the selection committee selected No. 12 seed and MAAC Champions, Quinnipiac, to go head-to-head against No. 5 seed and Big East Conference tournament champions, Marquette.
“I’d never heard of it,” was all Marquette sophomore guard Natisha Hiedeman had to say after questioned about her reaction to playing Quinnipiac. Though it may be a small private school, situated in Hamden, Connecticut, people know them now.
The teams headed to Coral Gables, Florida, for their first-round game. The Quinnipiac Bobcats went 27-6 this season, while the Marquette Golden Eagles are 25-7. Saturday’s game marked Marquette’s 10th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance and their first since the 2010-11 campaign. They’re currently on an eight-game winning streak, but the Bobcats we’re about to end that streak.
Marquette was off to a slow start as Quinnipiac was 4-of-5 and led 9-0 at the 7:13 mark in the first quarter. Despite eight points from sophomore forward Erika Davenport, the Golden Eagles were still unable to pull ahead. Sophomore Jen Fay added seven points, including a three-pointer, to the scoreboard for the Quinnipiac Bobcats, while senior forward Morgan Manz tacked on six more points, leading the team to a 26-13 lead over Marquette.
The Bobcats scored three points within the first minute and a half of the second quarter: a two-point jumper by Manz and a three-pointer by junior Carly Fabbri. The Golden Eagles then reclaimed the ball and put themselves back on the board with 10 consecutive points, but it still wasn’t enough to allow them to catch up to Quinnipiac.
Marquette ended the second quarter trailing by 13 points, ending the first half 43-30. This was the second largest halftime deficit of the season for the Golden Eagles.
Quinnipiac kept up their hot streak, outscoring Marquette 9-6 with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. However, the Golden Eagles pushed with a 12-2 run to close out the third stanza and cut the deficit to nine points, 54-45.
The Golden Eagles soared in the final period, going 8-2 in the first three minutes. There was no doubt that they were hungry for a win.
“In the last quarter, we started playing like we always do. We put up a fight. We played like we should have from the start,” said Marquette Coach Carolyn Kieger.
The Bobcats knew it was time to put one of their most powerful forward’s back in the game, Paula Strautmane. The 6-foot, Latvia native scored seven points off the bench.
Allazia Blockton and Davenport each nailed six points each in the final quarter for Marquette, which was enough to get them within two points of their opponent, but not enough to help them win the game.
“Teams usually do come back in the end, but the perseverance with this team is incredible. That’s what we do best. We got it done,” said Bobcat guard Adily Martucci.
“They made their push and their runs, but we answered,” said Bobcat Coach Tricia Fabbri.
Despite the loss, the Golden Eagles are still staying optimistic, “It was a blessing to even get here, but were not satisfied. We’ll be back next year, even better and stronger,” Blockton said.
Hiedeman nodded in aggreement. “I’m already looking forward to what we will accomplish next year,” she said.
“We have to learn from this. To be here is amazing. We wanted to still be playing, but that didn’t happen,” said Coach Kieger.
“Quinnipiac is a great team. They played with a great fight. I wish them all the luck in the future,” said Davenport.
The Bobcats will now advance to the next round of the NCAA tournament, playing the winner of No. 4 seed Miami v. No. 13 seed Florida Gulf Coast on Monday.
“This team deserves the recognition. I think we flew unjustly under the radar going into this tournament. We took care of business here today. That’s what we had to do to get the real attention that this game and this program deserves,” said Bobcat Coach Tricia Fabbri, who is the winningest coach in QU women’s hoops history and is in her 22nd season coaching the team.
“We knew we had a great team. Our shooting this morning in practice was the best. I texted my AD at 9:30 a.m. today saying, “We’re going to be hard to beat.”
It looks like Quinnipiac has made a name for themselves, and nobody will be left questioning who they are anytime soon.
“They know who we are now. I think everyone knows who we are,” Fay said after the team’s win.