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Hayward provides career-high 18 points as Marquette ends slide

Feb 20, 2007 - 5:04 AM MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- Dominic James picked an opportune time to shake a slump.

James scored 14 of his 18 points after intermission and freshman Lazar Hayward scored a season-high 18 as No. 16 Marquette pulled away in the second half for an 80-67 victory over Villanova in a Big East Conference contest.

Wesley Matthews scored 16 points and Jerel McNeal added 15 for the Golden Eagles, who snapped a three-game losing streak, including a 71-69 loss at the buzzer to Louisville on Saturday.

"I am really proud of their resiliency," Marquette coach Tom Crean said. "We have a young group, and we are playing some teams with some veterans and I am really proud of the way the team bounced back.

"Our respect for Villanova is incredible. They have game-breakers on their team. (Jay) Wright is a great coach and they brought it, but so did we. A great reward for a group of guys who have been working hard for the last 50-plus hours."

James, who entered the contest 1-of-20 from the arc in his last five games and missed all three attempts in the first 20 minutes, hit a 3-pointer and Hayward capped a 12-3 run with a layup that provided Marquette (22-7, 9-5 Big East) a 53-44 edge with 10:16 to play.

Hayward, who scored 13 points in the first half of a 33-33 tie, finished 5-of-7 from the floor, including 2-of-3 from the arc..

"We don't play the way we did tonight without what Lazar did tonight," Crean said. "He cuts, moves, slashes, can spot up, has played great defense and his moving without the ball has gotten better. When you have someone that can space the floor, it can make other things so much easier like attacking the rim, what we want to do."

Villanova (18-9, 7-6) crept within four, but James penetrated the lane, forced contact and avoided a charge before banking in a runner. Matthews scored on a fast-break layup then converted two free throws for a 61-51 edge with six minutes remaining.

James added a trey from the right wing that pushed the lead to 64-52 with 4:54 left. The point guard finished 5-of-13 from the floor and scored 14 of his 18 points after halftime. He shot 14-of-58 in the previous five games.

Mike Nardi hit two late 3-pointers, but the Wildcats could not overcome their poor second-half offense and outstanding free-throw shooting by the Golden Eagles.

"We go through droughts where we can't score," Wright said. "We just struggled after we get hot early. There are too many times where we get up and then hit a drought and cant get out of it."

Villanova had seven turnovers and four field goals in the first 14 minutes. Marquette hit 31-of-35 from the line. It entered shooting 64 percent.

"We had confidence tonight, just knowing we could go out there and make (the free throws)," James said. "We had confidence in one another and just went out there and knocked them down."

"The four keys for us tonight were our free throws, holding them to 38 percent from the field, only having a couple turnovers in the second half and coming back to outrebound them," Crean said. "They are as physical as any team we have played and are very strong, aggressive and quick."

Freshman Scottie Reynolds scored 16 of his 25 points in the first half and Curtis Sumpter added 14 points and 11 rebounds for Villanova, which has lost two straight after four consecutive wins.

Reynolds almost personally turned a one-point deficit into a 26-17 lead with 9:30 left in the first half when he dropped in 11 points, including a trio of shots from the arc over the 4:45 spurt.

Lazar responded with a 3-pointer and four free throws over a two-minute span to pull the Golden Eagles within 28-26. Three free throws by Marquette's Dan Fitzgerald late in first half sent the game to the break tied at 33-33.

"I thought their guards did such a great job driving the ball and making us rotate," Wright said. "(Hayward) did a great job of getting to an open area. He was always there to catch a pass or in a great location to grab a rebound."