"There are few teams that get to end their season with a win," said Marquette head coach Teri Mitchell. "It's an incredible feeling."
After not posting a winning streak of longer than two games during the regular season, the Golden Eagles rattled off five straight victories in the post-season to claim the program's first WNIT title.
Junior Erin Monfre scored a season-high 15 points on 5-of-8 three-point shooting and played terrific defense to lead the Golden Eagles' championship effort. It was a vindicating performance for Monfre, who suffered through her share of tough times this season. The Brookfield, Wisc. native shot only 25.7 percent from the field and had to play through the death of her mother mid-season.
All-Big East guard Krystal Ellis notched a double-double with 15 points and 11 assists. Ellis was named MVP of the tournament, after averaging 23.3 point over five WNIT games and recording a 40-point performance against Kentucky in the quarterfinals.
"I thought she was one of the best guards we've faced all year," said Michigan State head coach Suzy Merchant.
Angel Robinson tallied 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists and was also named to the all-tournament team. Jocelyn Mellen added 12 points and eight rebounds.
"I can't say enough about this team, their unselfishness, their togetherness and their passion to get it done," said Mitchell.
The game itself seemed to be over quickly, as Marquette wasted no time in burying the Spartans with a flurry of offense.
A three-pointer by Monfre at 15:31 gave Marquette a 9-7 lead and was the start of a 26-4 run for the Golden Eagles. Angel Robinson capped the scoring with a three-pointer to give Marquette a 32-11 lead. The 21-point cushion would match Marquette's largest edge until the final seven minutes of the game.
"I thought you could really see the difference in the athleticism out there," said Merchant. "Our best defensive team really couldn't get a stop."
Michigan State took advantage of Marquette turnovers to go on a 10-0 run and draw within nine, at 40-31, with 1:57 to play until halftime, but they would get no closer. Another three by Monfre in the waning second of the half gave Marquette a 45-33 advantage at the break.
The Golden Eagles picked things back up in the second half without missing a beat on offense. Within three minutes, their lead was back up to 19 points. Marquette's lead maxed out at 22 points on a transition feed from Ellis to Marissa Thrower, making the score 70-48 with 6:58 left to play.
Marquette shot 54.5 percent from the field in the first half and 45.8 percent for the game. They outscored Michigan State 22-14 in the paint and 9-0 on second chance points.
The Spartans' 6'9" sophomore Alyssa DeHaan was held to four rebounds and 1-of-3 shooting from the field. Marquette used a cadre of defenders and brought double-teams from many different angles to frustrate the All-Big Ten selection.
Kalisha Keane scored a career-high 24 points for the Spartans.
Michigan State had been 8-0 at home in WNIT play and had won their last eight at the Breslin Center before Saturday's game.
Mitchell credited her team's grueling Big East schedule for preparing them for a run that included three straight road victories.
"It takes something extra to win on the road," she said. "Our conference has prepared us physically, mentally and emotionally. We came out well in our last two games and it was our defense that sparked our intensity."
Marquette previously made it to the WNIT final in 2006, where they fell to Kansas State 77-65. This is the sixth consecutive year that Mitchell has guided the Golden Eagles to the post-season and the tenth time total in her 12 years as head coach.
Jeff Wolf is the head student writer of MarquetteHoops.com. He is a sophomore majoring in advertising