COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — When Marquette was down by nine points with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter against Rice in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, Natisha Hiedeman had just one message for her team.
“We’re not losing this game,” the senior barked at her teammates.
The experienced Golden Eagles turned things around after that, scoring 11 straight points in the fourth quarter and overtime to go on top and hold on for a 58-54 win.
Hiedeman scored 13 points and Allazia Blockton had 12 as the seniors led five-seed Marquette to a victory in the first round of the tournament for the second straight year.
“We talked a lot about how we’re never out of the fight,” Hiedeman said. “No matter what the score is, how much time is left, we’re going to give it our all … in the huddles we were just staying positive and encouraging each other to do what we had to do to win the game.”
The Golden Eagles (27-7), who are in the tournament for the third straight season, will play the winner of the Wright State-Texas A&M game on Sunday.
Amani Wilborn made a jumper with 3 1/2 minutes left in overtime to put Marquette up 54-52 and extend its run to 11-0. Blockton extended the lead to 4 with a shot with just over a minute to go.
The Owls (28-4) ended a scoring drought of about seven minutes stretching back to the fourth quarter when Erica Ogwumike made a basket with 51 seconds left.
But Hiedeman made two free throws with 1.3 seconds remaining to make it 58-54 and secure the victory.
“They trusted each other,” coach Carolyn Kieger said. “We did not play our best game, but we did not get down.”
The Owls had a nine-point lead after a jump shot by Ogwumike with about three minutes left in the fourth. Marquette then scored the next nine points to tie it at 52-all with a minute remaining. Blockton had a 3-pointer in that stretch and tied it with a jump shot after a turnover by Rice.
Mulkey missed two shots on one possession for the Owls after that but she blocked a 3-point attempt by Hiedeman on the other end to leave it tied.
Rice had a chance to win it in regulation, but Shani Rainey’s 3-pointer clanged off the rim sending the game to OT.
The Owls, who were in the tournament for the first time since 2005, got 22 points from Ogwumike in the loss, which snapped a 21-game winning streak. The Owls got 18 points, nine rebounds and five blocks from Mulkey, the 6-foot-9 C-USA defensive player of the year.
Ogwumike said Rice’s lack of poise down the stretch led to the loss.
“It kind of got to us at the end that we were up nine,” she said. “There were things we could have executed better. And we could have slowed the game down a little bit more at the end. I think a lot of the things that we messed up were in our hands.”
On the other hand, Blockton applauded the demeanor of her team despite the big deficit.
“We kept our composure, and we didn’t try to get depressed or force shots,” she said. “We just kept calm, and we found the best open option.”
Rice had a 3-point lead before a 6-2 run, with four points from Ogwumike, made it 48-41 with 4 1/2 minutes left.
The Owls led by 2 entering the fourth and pushed the lead to 40-35 when Ogwumike opened the quarter with a 3-pointer. Marquette scored the next four points, with layups from Danielle King and Natisha Hiedeman, to get within 40-39 with just less than eight minutes to go.
Rice scored the next four points, with a jump shot from Mulkey, to extend its advantage to 44-39 with about 5 1/2 minutes remaining.
Rice: Has a lot to look forward to with a young roster that will return many players from this team which set a school record for wins.
Marquette: Will have to have its young players step up next season as the Golden Eagles lose three senior starters.
ROOM TO IMPROVE
Marquette won despite scoring its third-fewest points of the season, giving the Golden Eagles confidence entering their next game because they know that they can play much better.
“The fact that we were able to win shows a lot of maturity,” Hiedeman said. “I think going into the next game we’re going to fix all of our mistakes we had in this game and we’ll be able to correct them hopefully by Sunday.”
While certainly disappointed with the loss, the Owls have plenty of reason for optimism with most of their top players returning next season.
“The future is very bright,” coach Tina Langley said. “This is a very young team and really talented team. So we know that we can continue to compete at this level for a long time.”