Sunday, April 6, 2003

Wade's world comes crashing down

By Arnie Stapleton
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS - Dwyane Wade, Marquette's marvelous swingman, wasn't even a factor just days after drawing comparisons to Michael Jordan following one of the greatest performances in NCAA tournament history.

With its junior guard stymied rather than sensational, Marquette never had a chance Saturday night and lost 94-61 to Kansas in the Final Four.

Wade and the Golden Eagles were already done when the junior guard staggered to the sideline and put a towel to his nose after being smacked in the face by fellow All-American Nick Collison early in the second half.

What hurt a lot worse was Wade's performance.

He went from looking super one week to scared the next, and his teammates followed suit.

"It was like a nightmare you were hoping to wake up from," Wade said. "It hurts. It's going to hurt tomorrow. It's going to hurt tonight. It's going to hurt forever.

"We didn't finish the job. We wanted to be national champions. We're just one of the best four teams in the country."

Wade had one of his worst games ever one week after leading an upset of top-ranked Kentucky with just the third triple-double in NCAA tournament history.

Wade finished with 19 points against Kansas in what turned out to be the fourth-biggest rout in Final Four history, and the largest margin of victory since Michigan State beat Penn 101-67 in the 1979 semifinals.

Kansas guard Michael Lee said the Jayhawks didn't deserve all the credit for stopping Wade.

"I don't think we shut him down," Lee said. "He missed some open shots and he made some tough ones."

Kansas coach Roy Williams likened Wade to Jordan last week, but it was the Jayhawks who looked like a team of NBA players instead.

Until Saturday, Wade scored 75 points in 60 minutes at the tournament, his pro stock soaring with every sweet shot and pass that he made.

He bottomed out against Kansas. In the first half, Wade missed two reverse layups that came nowhere near the basket. Instead of leading the break as he had so many times against Kentucky, Wade was the one trailing in transition this time.

"They took it all away, they did a good job of it. They tried to take the middle, the baseline, whatever they could away from us," Wade said. "They didn't want us to score because they know if we get going, we can be trouble. But they didn't let us get into a rhythm tonight.

"We shot our worst than we probably shot all year."

Not only that, but he was hit on the bridge of the nose by Collison with about 5 1/2 minutes into the second half and Marquette trailing 77-36. He returned with 10 minutes to play and the Golden Eagles down 82-47.

With their star struggling, Marquette's hopes of a national championship quickly vanished. Marquette couldn't match Kansas' superior strength, speed and precision in their most-lopsided loss in NCAA tournament history.

At halftime, Kansas led 59-30.

Playing in the school's first Final Four since Al McGuire's team won it all in 1977, the Golden Eagles simply couldn't keep their hands on the ball and they couldn't find the basket.

"We feel good about the season, but I can't really say proud because we didn't finish the job," Wade said.

McGuire's team regrouped from its runner-up finish in 1974 to claim a national title three years later.

Can this Marquette team do the same? The task will be tougher if Wade heads to the NBA.

In the closing minutes Saturday, the Golden Eagles' fans began chanting, "One more year! One more year!"

While Wade might love to start pulling in paychecks, Marquette has to hope that he doesn't want to go out like this.

"You always want to go out as a winner," Wade said. "And if we would have won the national championship, it would have been hard to leave my teammates.

"So, my decision is going to be the toughest decision I will ever make. But I'm going to make it with my family, my coaches and my teammates."

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