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Updated: Tuesday, January 7, 2003 11:52 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(23) Marquette 60, Saint Louis 54
MARQUETTE GOLDEN EAGLES
Marquette Golden Eagles
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ST. LOUIS BILLIKENS
St. Louis Billikens
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ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- As Dwyane Wade struggled to contribute due to an injury, Scott Merritt scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead 23rd-ranked Marquette to a 60-54 triumph over Saint Louis in a Conference USA matchup.

Wade, Marquette's top scorer, tried to battle through a rib cage injury, but only managed to contribute six points on 3-of-10 shooting in 29 minutes.

Merritt stepped up, scoring eight in the second half, and led four Golden Eagles (9-3, 1-1 C-USA American) in double figures.

Steve Novak, who had 10 points off the bench, hit all four free throws in the final 23 seconds to secure the victory for Marquette.

"He's been improving all along and it was just a matter of time until he started making plays," Golden Eagles coach Tom Crean said.

The Golden Eagles dominated the boards, outrebounding Saint Louis 38-18.

"We went to get the ball inside and that was a major part of our game plan," Crean said. "When we get it inside, we free things up for our perimeter players."

Wade took a huge fall after crashing into a Billikens defender on a layup attempt early in the second half. He returned down the stretch and had a pair of hoops in the final eight minutes and assisted on Merritt's hook shot with 1:35 left that gave Marquette a 55-50 edge.

Merritt grabbed five of his 11 boards off the offensive glass, where Marquette finished with a 16-4 advantage over Saint Louis.

Marque Perry netted 20 points and Josh Fisher chipped in 16 for the Billikens (6-6, 0-1), who dropped their fifth straight against the Golden Eagles.

Robert Jackson tallied eight points and Novak added a pair of 3-pointers as Marquette took a slender 23-22 advantage into the locker room.

"He's banged up after taking a charge late in the East Carolina game," Crean said of Jackson. "I'm proud of him tonight for playing 30 minutes when he's banged up like that. He continues to improve."

Marquette salvaged a 1-2 mark on its three-game road trip. But due to the Golden Eagles' consecutive losses at East Carolina and Dayton, they dropped 14 spots in the rankings.

Marquette opened a 28-21 lead in its all-time series with St. Louis.


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