Marquette barely avoids an upset against gutsy Utah State
In a nailbiter to Utah St., Marquette showed how badly it missed Dominic James
Utah State had a wacky way of calling plays with dummy flashcards
Marquette's superior athleticism carried the Golden Eagles in a tight finish
BOISE, Idaho -- Marquette was a popular pick as one of the high seeds that could fall in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and the Golden Eagles almost did on Friday. Utah State, a No. 11 seed, held a six-point lead with under five minutes remaining after trailing most of the game, but fifth-seeded Marquette survived 58-57 as their superior athleticism carried them in a tight finish.
Lazar Hayward, an unsung scorer given all the attention paid to Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews, led the Golden Eagles with 26 points and eight rebounds, helping them built a 14-point edge in the first half. He was also one of several Marquette players able to get to the free throw line late in the game, where the Golden Eagles converted on 19 of 23 attempts. "It was a tale of two halves," said Marquette coach Buzz Williams. "We were able to get consecutive stops in the first half and not in the second and that was why it was the game it was."
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Jared Quayle, Utah State's point guard, should have had a difficult time against the Golden Eagles guards, even without James in the lineup. But he gutted his way to 18 points, a team-high eight rebounds, four assists and only two turnovers (none in the second half). His three-pointer with 5:16 left gave the Aggies a 46-43 lead and he had a chance to push the lead to four with 3:18 remaining but his try from the left corner rimmed out. Considering the athletic defenders Marquette rolled his way, Quayle has no reason to hang his head.
Utah State's play-calling system is unique to say the least. Two assistant coaches (who look a lot alike) hold a stack of placards as thick as the Boise phonebook. In one stack are a series of words and numbers written in red and in the other everything is printed in blue. On a given set, one of the coaches will flip to a page with a term like "Front 5" while the other will display something like "Punch Back." One is a dummy card, and only the players know which is the real call and which is a decoy.
The Golden Eagles get the winner of Missouri/Cornell and they better pray that the Big Red pull off the upset. The stretches of lackadaisical defense and scoring droughts that almost led to the upset Friday will be more costly against the talented Tigers.
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