Friday, March 28, 2003

Marquette 77, Pittsburgh 74

Wade takes over in second half

By Dave Campbell
The Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS - Marquette is back where it hasn't been since the days of Al McGuire.

Dwyane Wade scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half to lead the third-seeded Golden Eagles to a 77-74 victory over No. 2 seed Pittsburgh in the Midwest Regional semifinals Thursday night at the Metrodome.

"He has the ability to take over the game at any time," teammate Travis Diener said. "That's what makes him probably the best player in the nation."

Chevon Troutman scored seven of his 15 points in the final 2:56 to lead a furious Panthers rally, but Marquette hung on and Pittsburgh was eliminated in the round of 16 for the second straight season.

"It's like the same feeling," Troutman said. "It's just a bad feeling for the seniors."

The lovable McGuire retired after coaching Marquette to the 1977 national title, and the Golden Eagles hadn't been to a regional final since. He died in 2001.

Marquette (26-5) will play top-seeded Kentucky on Saturday (4:40 p.m. ET), with the winner advancing to the Final Four in New Orleans. The Wildcats beat Wisconsin 63-57 earlier.

"Our goal all year was to make it to the Final Four and win the national championship," Diener said. "Kentucky's probably the hottest team. It's a difficult challenge, but if we play the way we have been we have a chance to win."

Brandin Knight led Pittsburgh (28-5) with 16 points. His 3-point attempt with about four seconds to go could have tied it, but he came up short.

Diener, who scored 55 points in the Golden Eagles' first two victories over Holy Cross and Missouri, was held to four points on 2-for-8 shooting.

Trailing by 10 with 3:56 to go, the Panthers scored nine straight points - seven by Troutman - to pull within one three times. But Wade made sure Marquette didn't lose the lead.

With the shot clock running down, he drove the lane and sank a twisting layup high off the glass to make it 75-72 with 23.4 seconds remaining.

"I used a move I hadn't used all year," Wade said. "It just came to me at that moment."

Knight - a 53 percent free-throw shooter for his career - made two foul shots to cut the lead to 75-74.

Scott Merritt - who had 17 points - hit a pair of free throws on the other end, bumping it back to 77-74 with 11.4 seconds to go.

Knight dribbled down the floor, pump-faked Wade in the air and launched a 3, but it banged off the rim. Todd Townsend grabbed the rebound and passed to Diener, who was fouled.

Diener missed both foul shots with 2.3 seconds left, but Carl Krauser's attempt from halfcourt at the buzzer sailed over the basket as gold-clad Marquette students stormed the court.

Wade, the Conference USA player of the year, offered a 20-minute glimpse of his all-around skills after a quiet first half.

With 9:55 remaining, he sliced to the basket and was fouled by Jaron Brown with the ball below his waist. Wade, somehow, hoisted a shot as he fell to the floor and - after hearing the cheers when the ball went in - popped to his feet with a grin and pointed to the crowd.

The three-point play gave the Golden Eagles a 60-51 lead.

"Yes, Dwyane was unbelievable," said Robert Jackson, who had 16 points for the Golden Eagles. "He's unselfish, and he's been doing it all year."

Later, Merritt poked a ball away from Pitt to a streaking Wade, who threw down a tomahawk dunk on the other end with 4:49 remaining to give Marquette its biggest lead, 70-59.

Diener grinned and raised his arms every time Wade scored.

Marquette didn't have as loud a crowd as Wisconsin did in the first game, but fans of the Golden Eagles - who made the five-hour trip west from Milwaukee on I-94 - far outnumbered the Panthers' backers.

Pittsburgh relied on a balanced attack as much as it did on defense this year, but the lack of a dominant scorer might have hurt the Panthers in this one. They were 4-for-14 from 3-point range.

Donatas Zavackas, the Panthers' top 3-point shooter, picked up his third foul early in the second half. He sat on the floor by himself at the end of Pitt's bench with a scowl on his face for much of the half - refusing to go into the game - and was scolded late in the game by Krauser.

When the game ended, Zavackas sat on the end of the bench without shaking anyone's hand.

"He's his own man," Troutman said. "If he doesn't want to play, we can't force him to."

Zavackas did not comment after the game in a dejected Panthers locker room. Ontario Lett was flat on the floor with his face resting on his arms.

Wade has led Marquette's resurgence in coach Tom Crean's fourth year. After a 15-14 mark in each of Crean's first two seasons, the Golden Eagles went 26-7 last year and won the Conference USA regular-season title this year.

"We know there's more ahead," freshman Steve Novak said. "And we have to get back to work."

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