MU Women Advance in WNIT

Krystal Ellis led all scorers with 25 points and the Marquette women (18-14, 8-8 Big East) went on a 15-0 run to start the second half en route to a 72-64 victory over Illinois in the Sweet-16 of the WNIT on Wednesday night.

MILWAUKEE – Krystal Ellis led all scorers with 25 points and the Marquette women (18-14, 8-8 Big East) went on a 15-0 run to start the second half en route to a 72-64 victory over Illinois in the Sweet-16 of the WNIT on Wednesday night.

 

It seemed like a case of déjà vu for the Golden Eagles as they headed to the locker room at haftime.  After scoring the game's first nine points and leading 31-22 at the 4:26 mark, they suddenly went cold from the field and found themselves trailing 36-31 at the break.  The Golden Eagles reversal of fortune was partly due to a rash of turnovers – they committed six in the final seven minutes of the first half.

 

"We just weren't running our sets right and we were giving turnovers, said Ellis.  "We had the lead and we weren't playing like we had the lead."

 

In their last game, a 75-69 overtime victory against Creighton on Monday, the Golden Eagles led by 16 points at the half only to fall behind in the waning minutes.  It took a Janelle Harris put-back with one second left in regulation that night to keep Marquette's season alive.

 

"Twenty minutes is a long time," Head Coach Teri Mitchell said of Wednesday's first half.   "We had the lead and we got away from why we had that lead. Our defensive intensity went down. We stopped getting the ball inside. We have to be an inside-outside team."

 

Marquette countered Illinois 14-0 run before halftime by pushing the tempo of the game right out of the break.  Ellis and Angel Robinson combined for 11 of Marquette's points during the decisive 15-0 run.  The team also did not commit a turnover during the run.

 

"When you're at this point of the year, there isn't a team in the country that doesn't make runs," said Mitchell.  "We talked about how they made that run and what we needed to do to settle down. In the second half we came out very confident, we worked together, our defense generated our offense."

 

After scoring only nine points and not taking a shot during the first half against Creighton, Ellis, a first-team All-Big East selection, scored 18 points in the second half and went 7-of-8 from the free-throw line down the stretch to ice the victory.

 

Big East All-Freshman selection Robinson filled up the box score with 16 points, six assists, five rebounds, and two steals for Marquette.

 

"Angel can get to the hoop," said Mitchell. "And we are a good team when we can penetrate and get into the paint."

 

Once again, the Golden Eagles' defense played a key role in their victory.  Marquette held Illinois scoreless for the first five minutes of the second half and forced a team that came in allowing the fewest turnovers in the Big Ten into 21 giveaways for the game.

 

"We're generated by our deflections," said Mitchell.  "And I know how we're going to play when I look up and see if we're in passing lanes. We have a lot of quickness on the perimeter and we kept forcing them out further."

 

The Golden Eagles also controlled the glass down the stretch, outrebounding the Illini 22-14 in the second half and 43-35 for the game.  Senior Svetlana Kovalenko, possibly playing in the final home game of her Marquette career, pulled in a team-high 13 rebounds to go with eight points.

 

Lori Bjork led the Illini, who fell to 5-6 all-time in the WNIT, with 20 points.  All-Big Ten selections Jenna Smith and Rebecca Harris added 14 points apiece.  The Golden Eagles held Smith, who came in averaging 9.6 rebounds per game, to only three boards.

 

Marquette improved to 8-5 all-time in the WNIT and 4-1 in WNIT games played at the Al McGuire center.  The Golden Eagles won the tournament in 2005 and were runners up in 2006.

 

Marquette advances to the Elite Eight of the WNIT, where they will take on Kentucky Sunday at 2:00 p.m. in Lexington, Ky.  The Wildcats beat James Madison ___ at Rupp Arena on Wednesday.

 

"We're just happy that we get to keep playing," said Mitchell.  "That's the fun part."

 

 

Jeff Wolf is the head student writer for MarquetteHoops.com.  He is a sophomore majoring in advertising and is also the Assistant Sports Director for Marquette Radio (WMUR).


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