INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- While Dwyane Wade struggled, Travis Diener picked up the slack for Marquette.
Diener scored a career-high 29 points, including six in the final 35 seconds, as the third-seeded Golden Eagles held off a stiff challenge by No. 14 Holy Cross with a 72-68 victory in the first round of the Midwest Region.
Marquette (24-5) posted its first NCAA Tournament win since a first-round triumph over Monmouth in 1996. The Golden Eagles will face Missouri in the second round.
Wade, Conference USA's Player of the Year, did not score in the first half after a 10-turnover performance in his last game. But Diener nailed five 3-pointers and Wade came on for 15 points in the second half.
"It's easy for a player to lose confidence," Wade said. "But with the teammates that I have and the coaching staff, I wasn't going to lose confidence."
Holy Cross (26-5) took its final lead at 58-57 on Brian Wilson's jumper with less than five minutes remaining. Diener answered with a 3-pointer 19 seconds later to give Marquette the lead for good.
The Crusaders pulled within 64-62 with 65 seconds left on a basket by Jave Meade. Marquette ran down the shot clock before Diener took a handoff from Wade and nailed a jumper with 35 seconds left for a four-point lead.
"They battled all night, we battled all night and it came down to us making more plays at the end to win the game," Diener said.
Diener added four foul shots and freshman Steve Novak drained a pair to seal the victory.
"I'm proud of the way my players held in it," Marquette coach Tom Crean said. "Holy Cross is a very, very good basketball team and they deserve all the credit and accolades that you give them. Our guys played hard and played gutsy to come away with a win today."
Wade made just 4-of-11 shot, but contributed five rebounds and four assists. Wade had baskets on two occasions in the final 3:05 that pushed the Golden Eagles' lead to four points.
"Down the stretch, me and Travis had the ball in our hands the most and we look at ourselves as leaders of the team because we're in the backcourt together," Wade said. "It was a good time for the backcourt to step up and prove that we're a pretty good backcourt."
Holy Cross has not won an NCAA Tournament since 1953, suffering its third straight difficult first-round loss. The Crusaders hung tough in losses to Kentucky and Kansas the last two years.
"This was without a doubt the hardest loss," Holy Cross forward Tim Szatko said. "This is definitely the worst feeling of the three games."
Szatko scored 16 points and reserve Nate Lufkin added 13 for Holy Cross, which saw a 12-game winning streak come to an end. Meade finished with 10 points and 11 assists.
"This is getting old, losing in the first round of the tournament," Crusaders coach Ralph Willard said.
The Crusaders did not find the range in the first half, shooting only 36 percent (8-of-22) and missing all six 3-point shots. The Golden Eagles took advantage and seized their largest lead on a 3-pointer by Diener that made it 28-16 with less than three minutes left in the first half.
Holy Cross closed the half with an 8-1 spurt to climb within 29-24 at halftime. Szatko had four points and Lufkin added a layup in the run.
"We knew they weren't going to go away, they're all tough kids mentally and physically," Diener said.
The Golden Eagles extended the lead to 35-26 early in the second half on a free throw by Scott Merritt. A pair of 3-pointers by reserve guard Mark Jerz powered a 17-4 tear that gave Holy Cross a 43-39 advantage with 12:55 remaining. Jerz's second 3-pointer capped the burst that prompted a timeout by Marquette and got the crowd going in favor of the underdogs.
Crean posted a win over Willard in the first meeting between the two. Crean was an assistant under Willard at Western Kentucky and Pittsburgh.
"I have unbelievable respect for Ralph Willard," Crean said. "It's great to get a first (tournament) win, but it's tough when it's against someone you care about."
Marquette's frontcourt had trouble all game against the bigger front line of Holy Cross. Merritt managed seven points on 2-of-10 shooting and center Robert Jackson fouled out with four points and five rebounds.
But Holy Cross had foul problems of its own with 6-10, 245-pound center Patrick Whearty, who picked up his fourth foul early in the second half. Whearty finished with 12 points and six rebounds.
The Crusaders also hurt themselves at the foul line, where it made just 15-of-25 attempts. Lufkin was 1-of-5 at the line.
Marquette, meanwhile, shot 93 percent (19-of-23) as Wade was 7-of-7 and Diener converted 6-of-7.