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Marquette holds off Utah State in first round

Mar 20, 2009 - 9:47 PM BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Lazar Hayward scored Marquette's first and last points.

He had plenty of big plays in between, too, scoring 26 to lead the Golden Eagles to a 58-57 win over Utah State in the first round of the West Regional.

Hayward, who was averaging 16 points, scored Marquette's first 10 points and was almost perfect from the foul line as the Golden Eagles held off the Aggies.

"He's a big-time player and I still don't think he gets enough credit," said Wesley Matthews, who had 11 points for Marquette. "If you want to play off of Lazar that's fine. We'll just pass it to him all the time."

The Golden Eagles blew a 14-point lead, then overcame a 49-43 deficit. Hayward spurred the comeback, muscling for key baskets and rebounds and drawing a couple of big fouls.

Hayward and Matthews both shot 5-for-6 from the foul line, where the Golden Eagles (25-9) ended up winning the game. Marquette hit 14 of 17 free throws in the second half, making 10 straight during a late stretch that put the Golden Eagles back up for good.

"For us to have a chance, we definitely have to get to the free throw line," said Marquette coach Buzz Williams, who made his NCAA tournament debut.

Jerel McNeal added 14 points for sixth-seeded Marquette, which will play Missouri in the second round.

Hayward, whose free throw with six seconds left gave Marquette a 58-54 lead, also tied for the team lead with eight rebounds. Marquette pulled down 10 of the game's first 12 boards and led by as much as 14 in the first half with a quick pace the Aggies (30-5) couldn't match.

The Golden Eagles stumbled early in the second half and ended up trailing by six, then regrouped at the end. Once Marquette got the Western Athletic Conference champion Aggies in foul trouble, the Golden Eagles sealed it from the foul line.

"When we had the ball, they made sure we were attacking," said Hayward, who was one off his career high of 27 points.

Marquette made 19 of 23 free throws Utah State to just eight foul shots -- two of which the Aggies missed as they were knocked out in the opening round in their fourth straight tournament appearance.

"We battled back in the second half and really gave ourselves a chance to win," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. "I thought Marquette did a really great job getting to the free throw line and that was probably the difference."

Jared Quayle led Utah State with 18 points. The 11th-seeded Aggies recovered from a dismal first half by shooting 12-for-20 to start the second half.

Hayward put Marquette back up 52-51 on two free throws with 1:45 left and the Golden Eagles led the rest of the way, although Utah State did make one final push.

Pooh Williams scooped up a loose ball and banked in a 3-pointer as the shot clock wound down to get Utah State within 56-54 with 23 seconds left. The Aggies then got another break when McNeal went 1-for-2 from the line after a quick foul with 18 seconds remaining.

But Gary Wilkinson's 3-point attempt for Utah State that would've tied it clanged off the rim, Hayward got the rebound and sealed it with another free throw.

"It felt good coming off," Wilkinson said. "It was just short."

The Golden Eagles drew a quick foul after the rebound and hit another free throw to seal it.

Wilkinson finished with 15 points, but only four rebounds. Tai Wesley scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half before fouling out in the final minute.

The Aggies, whose 30 wins were second only to Memphis entering the tournament, haven't won an NCAA game since 2001.

"It doesn't take a genius to figure out them getting to the free throw line was huge and that we were stunned by their athleticism and pressure initially in the game," Morrill said.

Marquette won despite shooting just 38 percent in the second half. The Big East representatives controlled the first half, pulling down 10 of the first 12 rebounds and leading by as much as 14 before Utah State rushed out of halftime with a 10-0 run.

After a 3-pointer by Maurice Acker put Marquette up 29-18, Utah State scored the next 10 points -- getting six from Wesley on two layups and a dunk as the Aggies passed the ball around to clear out room inside. Jared Quayle also hit a 3-pointer during the run, which had the large contingent that made the four-hour drive from northern Utah finally gave the fans something to cheer.

Hayward gave the Golden Eagles a little room on a jumper from the top of the key that made it 43-38, then the Aggies reeled off eight straight points. Quayle broke a 43-all tie with a 3-pointer, giving the Aggies their first lead of the game and Tyler Newbold hit again from beyond-the-arc to put Utah State up 49-43.

Wary of Utah State's precision offense, the Golden Eagles played defense that turned the Aggies' schemes into a chaotic mess. Utah State rushed difficult shots and the Golden Eagles kept the Aggies away from most of the rebounds.

"We weren't really ready for their pressure," Wesley said. "They were kind of taking us out of our offense."