Hayward leads Marquette over St. John'sMar 10, 2010 - 11:04 PM By JIM O'CONNELL AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK(AP) -- When Marquette plays another Big East team no one is allowed out of their seat in the final minutes.
How about this stat?
In their 19 games against conference foes this season, the Golden Eagles have had 12 games decided by three points or less. They have won six of the last seven of those, the latest a 57-55 victory over St. John's on Wednesday in the second round of the Big East tournament.
Marquette, the No. 5 seed, moves on to face fourth-seeded and 10th-ranked Villanova in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Here's s surprise: Their first two meetings this season were both two-point Villanova wins.
"We were 2-5, and since that time we've been in one- and two-possession games," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said of the start to the conference season. "... Everything has changed. The whole deal is this, our margin of error has never changed.
"The games that we lost, the lessons we learned, are just as important as the games we won by one or two possessions as well."
The Golden Eagles (21-10) looked like they were on their way to a laugher against St. John's (17-15) in a rematch of a second-round matchup from last season. Marquette won that game 74-45 and it was ahead 27-17 at halftime Wednesday, the Red Storm's worst half of the season as they shot 29.6 percent (8 of 27).
St. John's, which trailed by 14 points in the first half, started hitting shots and dominating the backboards. The Red Storm, who had a 22-6 rebound advantage in the second half, took the lead three times, bringing a crowd of about 15,000 at Madison Square Garden to its feet.
The last Red Storm lead was 53-52 after a free throw by Paris Horne with 2:22 to go.
David Cubillan's 3-pointer with 1:11 left gave Marquette the lead for good at 55-53.
D.J. Kennedy of St. John's was forced into a tieup and the possession arrow favored Marquette.
"I felt like when I had an opportunity to make a play for the team, it's a play I usually make," Kennedy said. "I just wasn't able to get an opportunity to make a play for my team. It was great defense by (Lazar) Hayward."
Hayward had 20 points and nine rebounds for Marquette. His two free throws with 35 seconds left made it a four-point game and despite the Golden Eagles missing the front end of two 1-and-1s in the final 19 seconds, the Red Storm only managed one field goal the rest of the way and a desperation 3 at the buzzer by Malik Boothe was well short.
It was Marquette's 11th straight win over St. John's, which was led by Kennedy and Sean Evans with 12 points each.
When these teams met at St. John's on Feb. 24, Jimmy Butler hit a shot at the overtime buzzer for a 63-61 Marquette victory.
"Coach (Norm) Roberts doesn't get the credit he deserves for how hard his players play," Williams said "... If you ask our players who's the hardest playing team in the league, they would say St. John's. I thought they were the hardest playing team today."
But that wasn't enough to keep the Red Storm, who beat Connecticut 73-51 on Tuesday, out of the quarterfinals again, a round they last reached in 2003.
"We didn't shoot the ball very well in the first half, but we came back," Roberts said. "We just talked about make the extra pass, make one more pass - they do a great job of rotating in the first half and making the ball stick in our hands a little bit. I thought the guys did a good job of making the extra pass in the second half."
Marquette entered the game ninth in the nation in 3-point shooting at 39.9 percent. That number improved after a 10 of 18 effort against St. John's, which was just 3 of 15 from beyond the arc.
"We're starting to learn how to play in close games," Hayward said, "we definitely understand the value of one possession is very, very vital to us, and hopefully that will transpire in the NCAA tournament."
First, they will face Villanova in hopes of their second semifinal appearance.
"We'll have our hands full," Williams said. "They haven't played since Saturday, you just saw how hard we had to play to escape, so we'll have a lot to do over the next 22 hours to get prepared to play."
- BIG EAST TOURNAMENT
AT NEW YORK, NY
NCAA BB MARQUETTE 57
ST JOHNS 55 FINAL
Mar 10 4:30 PM
- BIG EAST TOURNAMENT
AT NEW YORK, NY
NCAA BB MARQUETTE 27
ST JOHNS 17 HALFTIME
Mar 10 3:17 PM
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