Marquette edges Villanova 56-53 to face DePaul in semifinals

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ROSEMONT, Ill. – At the post game press conference, Villanova head coach Harry Perrett said that the quarterfinals Big East match between Marquette and Villanova came down to one area: experience.

“My biggest fear coming into the game was our inexperience,” Perrett said. “There’s no lack of effort by these guys, but mentally younger players think that playing faster and jumping higher means playing better.” 

Naturally, the final play of the game would come down to just that. Marquette senior Katherine Plouffe blocked a jumper by Villanova sophomore Carolina Coyer with seven seconds left and the Golden Eagles earned a 56-53 victory over the Wildcats.

“We’re just fighters,” Plouffe said. “In this case, we want to win the tournament to gain an automatic birth into the NCAA tournament. This win was huge for us. It gives us confidence going into the next round.” 

Plouffe earned a double double, scoring 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. She recorded two blocks, the biggest coming against Coyer. The senior forward also hit two free throws late to give Marquette a 54-53 with 18 seconds left.

Villanova trailed 42-33 with 10 minutes to go in the game, but rallied back to take a 48-47 lead. The Wildcats, however, went scoreless in the final minute after taking a 53-51 lead.

Villanova senior Devon Kane led her team with 19 points. Coyer scored 10 points. The Wildcats had an opportunity to tie the ball game with a 3-pointer in the final five seconds, but Marquette came away with another block.

Marquette led 27-25 at halftime. They finished shooting 36 percent (20-56) and holding Villanova to 34 percent (18-53). The Golden Eagles also held Villanova, who ranked second in the Big East, to just 17 percent (4-24) from 3-point range.

“Last game we shot 64 percent from 3,” Perrett said. “Obviously we weren’t going to make 64 percent again, but we needed at least seven or eight to win. We’re not a physical team. We’re a finesse team. We got our looks, but they just didn’t go in.”

Marquette head coach Terri Mitchell said that the Golden Eagles’ defense was the key factor in the third meeting between the teams. Villanova took two prior meetings, including an 81-64 loss on March 4.

“Our defense did an amazing job and that was our focus,” Mitchell said. “We were switching a lot in the first two games and this time we went man. We said to just find a way.”

Marquette goes onto a rubber match with no. 1 seed DePaul. The two teams split the regular season meetings with each team winning at home. In the last meeting, Marquette snapped DePaul’s nine-game win streak for an 80-74 victory.

Marquette and DePaul will play at 5:30 p.m. central Monday at Allstate Arena.

“We know them,” Mitchell said. “The challenge is that they are the favorites…but there confidence is a big challenge. We’re really excited.”