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Published:March 21st, 2009 16:43 EST
Marquette, Utah State

Clutch Performances Give Marquette First-Round Win Against Utah State

By Christopher HIllenbrand

Star forward for Marquette, Lazar Hayward netted 26 points while the Golden Eagles as a whole went 10 for 10 in their final free throw attempts of the 4th quarter to clinch a 58-57 victory over Utah State on Friday. The win advances Marquette to the 2nd round of the West Regional NCAA tourney. Going into championship play, Marquette was the 6th seed in the Big East with Utah State rounding out the 11th seed in the West Regional athletic conference.

Marquette, Utah State

Marquette was leading by 14 points, when the Utah State Aggies even the score and went on to take a 6 point lead. The Golden Eagles star shooters kick started a rally which resulted in the victory tightest of margins.

Eagles` Guards Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews scored 14 points apiece.

On the other side, Guard Jared Quayle led the Aggies with 18 points and 8 rebounds. After a disappointing 1st half, Utah State regained momentum by shooting 60 percent from the field (12-20) at the start of the second half. But their defense stuggled in the last minutes of the game, giving Marquette the win.

With 1 minute 45 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Hayward brought the Golden Eagles back to to a 52-52 advantage on two free throws and Marquette held on the last seconds. Marquette shot for 14 of 17 from the foul line in the 3rd and 4th quarters, including 10 consecutive shots during a run which led the team to overcome the deficit, and staved off the Aggie`s last march down court to maintain the victory.

Utah State`s Guard/Forward Pooh Williams swished a 3-pointer from back court to bring the Aggies 2 points away from tying the score at 56. Utah State then lost their stride following a costly foul when McNeal scored 1 of 2 free throws from the foul line.

In a critical last stand, Aggies` Forward Gary Wilkinson attempted a 3-pointer, which would`ve evened the score at 57, but his shot bounced off the rim. As both teams wrested for ball control, Marquette caught another fortunate foul and sunk the determining free throw to give the Golden Eagles the edge. Before the shot clock expired, the Aggies swished a 3-pointer to give them them the futile 1 point difference in the loss.

Wilkinson ended the contest with 15 points and only 4 rebounds: a figure lower than the player`s rebound average per game. Aggies` Forward Tai Wesley scored 11 of his 15 points in the game during the 2nd half before giving up the crucial game-turning foul in the last few moments of the game.

Although Marquette came out victorious, they only scored 38 percent of their shots in the 2nd half. But they dominated the 1st half with 10 of the 12 total rebounds brought in by both sides, and were up by as many as 14 points going into half-time. The Aggies charged right out of the gate with 10 unanswered points to start the 3rd period, but couldn`t retain that level of production during the remainder of the game.