Jessica January scored a team-high 23 points and Amarah Coleman added 17, but No. 3 seed Marquette beat No. 1 seed DePaul 86-78 in the title game Tuesday night before a near-sellout crowd at the 3,700 seat Al McGuire Center.
And as much as this game was a microcosm 40 minutes of an entire season, DePaul is not done with its season.
“This hurts that we lost in this last game, but us seniors, we still want to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, and we still have a really good chance to play well, so we're going to have to turn the page and get some good practices in,” January said.
January added a game-high seven assists tonight and was named to the All-Tournament Team.
It has been 39 years and 12 days since DePaul and Marquette first played one another in women’s college basketball, and this was the first time in the last eight meetings between the two teams where the winner did not reach 90 points.
DePaul (26-7) was aiming for its third tournament title since conference realignment in 2013.
Marquette (25-7) last won a conference tournament in 1995 when it was part of the Great Midwest Conference. The Golden Eagles are now 6-0 versus ranked teams this season.
“Marquette is really good, and I believe they were really good all year long,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. “You don't beat Oregon State at Oregon State and Arizona State and us without being good.”
Both teams shot tournament all-time highs for their schools in three-point field goal percentage, with DePaul shooting 50 percent (13-26), eclipsing its 43.5 percent versus Pittsburgh in 2006, and Marquette also shooting 50 percent (9-18) from behind the arc.
Marquette set the tone for the three-point barrage with Natisha Hiedeman sinking a shot from half court at the first quarter buzzer.
“I thought we self-inflicted some of our own wounds in the first quarter, and Hiedeman throws in the three to end it and we're down 25-24 in a quarter that we probably had a chance to be up 24-16 or so if we just didn't throw the ball away a little bit,” Bruno said.
Amarah Coleman (17 points on 6-9 from the field) missed a lay up early in the third quarter before the pace for both teams heated up.
Coleman then drained a three-pointer before Hiedeman countered with two three-pointers. Coleman then drained two three-pointers and converted a lay up to give DePaul a 53-52 lead with 5:00 left in the quarter.
A three-pointer by Marquette’s McKayla Yentz gave Marquette its biggest lead to that point at 66-58 midway through the fourth quarter. The Golden Eagles then pushed their lead to 75-63 before a three-pointer by Kelly Campbell, two free throws by January, and one free throw by Brooke Schulte cut Marquette’s lead to 75-69 with 1:35 to play.
Marquette shot 12-15 from the line in the last 1:45 to seal the win.
“You have to move on,” Bruno said. “These are young athletes that, what are we going to wallow in our self-pity now for a couple -- we don't have time.
“The beauty of tonight's game was it was NCAA basketball at its best. It's the same -- you just take off the words tonight and put first round or second round or even regional round, that's what we're dealing with. We didn't just ask to be an [NCAA 16 RPI]. Those players did that. So we're both good basketball teams, and I'm looking forward to having a chance to see what we can prove to the rest of the world when that NCAA Tournament starts.”
DEPAUL 24 16 18 20
MARQUETTE 25 17 17 27