Sophomore guard's 3-point accuracy saves MarquettePosted: Thursday March 20, 2003 3:08 PM
Updated: Thursday March 20, 2003 7:28 PM
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Travis Diener was Marquette's third scoring option throughout the regular season.
That all changed Thursday.
Diener scored a career-high 29 points and Dwyane Wade added 15 points and 11 assists as the Golden Eagles beat Holy Cross 72-68 in the Midwest Regional to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in seven years.
"I got a few looks and I took them," Diener said. "It's not like I was looking to take bad shots. They just came."
Holy Cross, seeded 14th, hasn't won an NCAA game since 1953, but for the third straight year it almost pulled off an upset of a higher-ranked team. The Crusaders lost to Kentucky in 2001 by four points and to Kansas last year by 11.
"Our problem is we can't get over that first-game hump," Holy Cross coach Ralph Willlard said. "I thought we could be a dangerous team after the first round."
Third-seeded Marquette (24-5) won an opening-round game for the first time since 1996 and will play sixth-seeded Missouri on Saturday.
Diener, a 6-foot-1 guard who scored 17 points in the first half, gave Marquette the lead for good when he made a 3-pointer with 4:30 remaining.
Diener spent most of the season behind leading scorers Wade and Robert Jackson, who only scored four points. Diener said he was bothered by shin splints, though it wasn't noticeable on the floor.
"I had a couple of days of rest and it felt good last night," Diener said. "I think the rest was the best thing for it."
He bested his previous high of 21 and went 6-for-7 from the 3-point line.
Wade added a running layup to make it 62-58, giving the Golden Eagles the cushion they needed. Wade, the Conference USA player of the year, went 4-of-11 from the floor but made all seven of his free throws.
The Crusaders (26-5) struggled in that department, going 15-for-25 from the line while Marquette was 19-for-23.
But Holy Cross pulled to 64-62 with just under a minute left after a baseline jumper by Jave Meade. Diener answered again with another basket, and the Golden Eagles pushed their lead to 68-62.
Tim Szatko hit a 3-pointer for Holy Cross with 12 seconds left to make it 68-65 but that was as close as it would get.
Szatko led the Crusaders with 16 points, Lufkin had 13 and Patrick Whearty 12.
Those three helped Holy Cross, wearing white headbands, punish Marquette inside. Holy Cross outscored the Golden Eagles 32-18 in the paint.
Holy Cross also sank five 3-pointers, rarely settling for a mid-range jumper. The Crusaders were cheered on by Pacers forward Ron Artest, in a purple tank top and yellow Pacers bucket cap.
Diener though, hurt them from outside. He hit consecutive 3s early in the first half to give Marquette a 14-9 lead. The Golden Eagles led 29-25 at the half.
"He's so underrated for what he does for our team," Wade said. "He's so tough and gutsy."
Marquette wouldn't lose the lead until a layup by Meade made it 40-39 six minutes into the second half. From there, neither team led by more than three points until Diener's winner.
Holy Cross, the Patriot League champions, lost for only the second time in 22 games since late December.
The game was an emotional one for both coaches. Marquette coach Tom Crean was an assistant under Willard when Willard was at Western Kentucky and Pittsburgh.
"Before the tipoff when we met, all we said was, 'I love you.' That's the way we feel about each other," Willard said.