Martin’s 24 lifts DePaul past Marquette in first game of Big East women’s basketball tournament

HARTFORD, Conn., – Take the game away from Anna Martin for a long period of time and see what happens when she returns.

The Marquette Golden Eagles faced Martin’s wrath head-on Saturday, as the competitive DePaul senior guard – just recently back from injury that forced her to miss nine games – rediscovered her scoring ability in the Blue Demons’ first game of the 2013 Big East women’s basketball tournament in Hartford, Conn.

Led by Martin’s efficient 24 points, the Blue Demons took down the Golden Eagles 77-69 at the XL Center, moving the team on to face Connecticut on Sunday.

“It’s nice to have our team back whole. These players have really gutted through a difficult year,” said DePaul head coach Doug Bruno. “It’s nice to see them respond when they put themselves in a position where it’s down to one game and we have to win.”

With their proverbial backs to the wall, Martin and the Demons forced Marquette into difficult defensive positions, combining an effective transition attack and aggressive inside play.

“We played DePaul basketball the way it’s meant to be played,” said Bruno. “I think this was a very important win. I just think we got some good play out of everyone on the floor.”

The Blue Demons, who held just a 35-34 first half lead, came out in the second period intent on attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line, failing to make it to the charity stripe once in the first period. The Demons forced the Eagles over the foul limit with 10 minutes left, which allowed them to shoot a commanding 18-23 from the line. Brittany Hrynko, who finished with 17 points, four rebounds and four assists, shot 8-10 from the line.

A decisive 24-7 DePaul run in the midst of the second half kept Marquette behind after the Eagles took a momentary 42-39 lead with 16 minutes to play. Seven straight points from Hrynko capped the big run, giving the Demons a 63-49 lead with seven minutes remaining.

But it was Martin who truly shined, converting nine of her 14 shot attempts and finding plenty of avenues to put the ball in the hoop.

“Being out for five to six weeks was really tough from a conditioning point of view. I was a little hesitant the game before, just having my legs,” said Martin. “But I thought the team did a great job tonight with their energy and getting me the ball. I just knew this was a game we had to win and I was fired up.”

“She’s been a great leader and scorer for us,” said Bruno. “But there’s an intangible in there that you can’t even put into words – aspects of character that, just by osmosis, move to other players when she’s on the floor.”

Marquette head coach Terri Mitchell was equally impressed with the way Martin attacked the Golden Eagles’ defense, leaving them slow to react on rotations and contesting shots, especially during DePaul’s run.

“It felt like they hit the shots and we didn’t. They just did a tremendous job in transition and got out,” said Mitchell. “They were shooting poorly, and then they just changed it around and were really attacking. And I thought Anna, as a senior, said, ‘I’m gonna do something about that.'”

Sophomore Eagles guard Arlesia Morse, who led Marquette with 16 points, attributed much of DePaul’s success to Martin as well.

“Anna Martin is their emotional leader and you can tell that she was the one that got them going. They fed off her energy and that changed the whole tempo of the game.”

With their first game in the books, the Blue Demons next face Connecticut on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.

“It’s going to be really, really tough game,” said Bruno. “We prepared for them a few weeks ago and now it’s just matter of going out and playing a competitive basketball game.”