Marquette had a comfortable 13 point lead after playing 17 minutes of the first half, and looked to be cruising to an easy victory, when our shots stopped falling and USU figured out how to score against our much quicker squad.
MU was outscored 39-32 in the 2nd half, and was down by 6 with 5 minutes to go, yet slowly chipped away, mostly with the help of USU fouling and putting MU on the line. -- Marquette hit 19-23 (83%) from the charity stripe, hitting 11 of 14 in the last 3 minutes to seal the game.
With a 4 point lead, USU was allowed to streak down the court and hit an open 3 to end the game, 58-57.
Lazar Hayward was the player of the game, shooting 9-14 with 26 points and 8 boards. Jerel and Wes shot a dismal 6-26 combined, and collected most of their points from the FT line.
This game is very reminiscent of the MU vs. Holy Cross game in 2003, when 3rd seeded MU barely survived 72-68 versus #14 seed Holy Cross. It took 29 points from Travis Diener, 6 in the last 35 seconds to eek out that win.
Who was Marquette's next opponent in 2003? Missouri, who Marquette will play this Sunday at 4:15pm.
And what of the quick turnaround for the Sunday game against Missouri -- especially since MU had five days to prepare for Utah State? After the game we asked MU great Jim McIlvaine about the tight turnaround during the NCAA tournament and how that might impact players' preparation, their approach, and their own expectations heading into Sunday's tilt with the Tigers:
I don't think the approach changes at all for the players. Coach Williams has done a very good job of keeping things loose, but focused within the team and they have been very consistent throughout the year in terms of their game preparation. I don't know what expectations the team has for themselves or what the general consensus is outside of the team, but I have to think these kids, especially the seniors, wouldn't feel like any weight of expectation has been lifted with this win.
I don't want to sell them short, but I have to think the seniors would be disappointed if they weren't able to make it to the second weekend of the tournament. Of course, I'm hoping for a Final Four run and a national championship, but I'm now in a position to do that, because I'm no longer a player, who can only focus on the next opponent and the task at hand.
Jim, thanks. We'll be listening on Sunday.
Enjoy the victory!!
*edit - McIlvaine comments.