No. 18 Marquette Makes It to 2nd Round

Thursday, March 8th 2007, 5:52 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Marquette was facing an early exit from the Big East tournament, and St. John's fans were thinking about an upset. One big run and a bunch of clutch shots down the stretch helped the 18th-ranked Golden Eagles regain control Wednesday night to make the second round of the Big East tournament.

``We knew it was going to be a great crowd and we knew they were going to be a great team,'' Marquette coach Tom Crean said. ``I don't think the game disappointed anybody in the sense of how hard both teams played.''

Dan Fitzgerald scored eight of his 20 points during a game-turning 15-3 run midway through the second half and Marquette held off upset-minded St. John's 76-67.

Wesley Matthews added 15 points and Lazar Hayward 14 for the sixth-seeded Golden Eagles (24-8), who advanced to play third-seeded Pittsburgh (25-6) on Thursday. It will be third game between the teams, with Marquette winning both _ including last Saturday night.

``They've been great games all across the board,'' Crean said. ``We've just been fortunate, I guess, at the end of the games.''

In other Big East tournament games Thursday, top-seeded Georgetown had an afternoon matchup with Villanova, which beat DePaul 75-67. No. 4 seed Notre Dame followed against Syracuse, which topped Connecticut 78-65. At night, it's third-seeded Louisville facing West Virginia, which cruised past Providence 92-79, and Marquette-Pittsburgh.

Two more teams qualified for the NCAAs on Wednesday. Weber State got the Big Sky's spot by beating Northern Arizona 88-80, and Central Connecticut beat Sacred Heart 74-70 for the Northeast Conference's berth.

Marquette won despite playing without sophomore guard Jerel McNeal, who injured a thumb in practice last Friday and didn't play in Saturday's regular-season finale against Pittsburgh. He's day to day, and it was uncertain if he'd play Thursday.

``We knew with Jerel out, everyone had to step up,'' Fitzgerald said. ``We had nine guys playing, and everyone stepped up and is doing a little more than what we normally do.''

Anthony Mason Jr. scored 19 points and Aaron Spears 18 for 11th-seeded St. John's (16-15), which was short-handed and playing in its first Big East tournament in four years _ and first under coach Norm Roberts.

``It's tough, but I'm not satisfied,'' Mason said. ``I'm proud of what we did. We showed a lot of character.''

One major key to the game was Marquette's domination on the boards, as the Golden Eagles outrebounded St. John's 41-28.

``They were 12-2 when they outrebounded their opponents,'' Crean said. ``We didn't want to make it 13.''

Marquette took a 10-point lead for the second time on Hayward's layup with 16:25 to go. But St. John's went on a 10-0 run, led by a jumper and two 3-pointers by Mason, who missed the end of the first half with a sprained ligament in his right hand.

With his hand heavily bandaged in the second half, Mason drained a 3 with 14:13 left, sending the pro-St. John's crowd into a frenzy. On Marquette's next possession, James had his shot blocked by Eugene Lawrence, and Larry Wright converted a layup to tie it at 45 with 13:48 remaining.

Marquette ended the upset hopes by going on a 15-2 run, capped by Fitzgerald's two free throws for a 60-48 lead with 9 minutes left.

St. John's was without senior forward Lamont Hamilton, the team's leading scorer and rebounder who partially tore a tendon in his left knee in a victory over Providence on Sunday. The Red Storm also were without senior guard Daryll Hill, who missed the last 12 games of the regular season with an injured left knee.

Syracuse 78, Connecticut 65

Demetris Nichols scored 28 points, hitting seven 3-pointers, for fifth-seeded Syracuse.

The Orange (22-9), who have won the last two Big East tournaments, put together a 25-8 run to start the second half. Nichols scored 11 points, including three 3-pointers during the spurt.

Jerome Dyson scored 21 points to lead Connecticut (17-14).

West Virginia 92, Providence 79

Seventh-seeded West Virginia made a Big East tournament-record 17 3-pointers.

The win kept alive West Virginia's chances of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should it not win the conference title. Frank Young and Alex Ruoff each scored 21 points for the Mountaineers (22-8).

``When we shoot like that, we're a tough out,'' coach John Beilein said. ``We've had moments where we're extremely efficient. We really did a great job tonight.''

Dwain Williams scored 21 points, Herbert Hill added 20 and Weyinmi Efejuku had 19 for the Friars (18-12).

Villanova 75, DePaul 67

Freshman Scottie Reynolds scored 29 points and made eight free throws in the last 4 minutes to lead ninth-seeded Villanova.

``I was just trying to be aggressive,'' Reynolds said. ``A switch kind of turned on in me where I wanted to be more aggressive on the ball. It ended up where I was going to the line, and, you know, it worked out.''

Curtis Sumpter added 25 points and the Wildcats (22-9) won their fourth straight.

Sammy Mejia scored 20 points for DePaul (18-13), playing in its first Big East tournament after joining the conference last season.

Big Sky

Weber State 88, N. Arizona 80

League MVP David Patten scored 22 points. The Wildcats (20-11), who last made it in 2003, will play in their 14th NCAA tournament.

But it was Dezmon Harris, not Patten, who sealed the win for the BSC regular-season champions on a drive to the basket with 1 minute to play. That put the Wildcats up 83-77, forcing NAU (18-12) to foul.


Central Connecticut 74, Sacred Heart 70

Javier Mojica scored 25 points, including a late 3-pointer that helped Central Connecticut (22-11) win its third NEC championship in the last seven years.

Central Connecticut ran away with the Northeast Conference regular season championship, going 16-2 in league play and 9-0 at home. But it was pushed hard by Sacred Heart (18-14).