Marquette Hangs on to Beat No. 10 Villanova, 80-76

March 11, 2010

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By Mike Fratto

NEW YORK - Marquette has made a habit of playing in close games this season, and used that experience to its advantage for the second day in a row at the BIG EAST Tournament.

Darius Johnson-Odom scored a career-high 24 points and Lazar Hayward added 20 points and 7 rebounds to lead the Golden Eagles to an 80-76 win over No. 10 Villanova at Madison Square Garden Thursday. 

Fifth-seeded Marquette (22-10) advanced to a semifinal game at 7 p.m. Eastern Time Friday against No. 8 seed Georgetown, which upset top-seeded Syracuse earlier in the afternoon. It will be the Golden Eagles' second appearance in a BIG EAST Tournament semifinal -- they lost to Pittsburgh in 2008.

Of the 20 games Marquette has played against conference opponents this season, 13 have been decided by four points or less, and the Golden Eagles have won seven of the last eight games of that nature.

"Every single practice, coach [Buzz Williams] really gears it up," Hayward said. "And I think that's why when we get in those games and we get into the guts of a game, we're all calm because we do that every single day. And when those things happen, we're able to say, `Ok, we've been here before. We know what we're supposed to do.'"

Hayward hit a 3-pointer to give Marquette a 73-70 lead with 1:51 left and later hit the clinching free throw. Hayward shot 32.9 percent from long range during the regular season, but he has brought his stroke to New York. The senior forward now has connected on six 3-pointers in the Golden Eagles' two games in the Big East tournament, none more important than the go-ahead shot against Villanova.

"When I had that three, I had a little space, and I saw he had his hands down," Hayward said. "It was a rhythm shot. Coach never gets mad if we shoot rhythm threes. It was definitely a big momentum swing for us."

Johnson-Odom exploded for his career-high scoring effort a day after struggling against St. John's. He caught fire early in this one, hitting a trio of three-pointers after getting several open perimeter looks because the Wildcats were double-teaming Hayward.

Johnson-Odom's proficiency from the outside opened up the driving lanes later in the game and the sophomore attacked the rim regularly, ending up with five assists to go along with five 3-pointers. 

"I think today I was just attacking more, trying to create not just for myself but for my teammates," Johnson-Odom said. "Yesterday I thought I was a little passive on both ends of the court. And I think when I come out and play like that, I help my team in so many different areas."

Marquette jumped out to a 25-17 lead midway through the first half, but Villanova made a run to tie the game 30-30 at halftime. 

The game stayed tight throughout the second half, with the teams exchanging runs. The Wildcats opened up a seven-point lead with 13:08 left, but Marquette quickly went on an 13-4 run to take a 54-52 lead. It expanded that lead to 65-57, but the Wildcats responded with a 13-5 run to tie the game 70-70. That's when Hayward sunk his 3-pointer to give Marquette the lead for good.

David Cubillan (17) and Jimmy Butler (14) also reached double figures for the Golden Eagles, who have won six of their last seven games.

"After Pittsburgh beat us at home, I think from that point forward every single game has been a miniature NCAA tournament game for us," Williams said. "So there's been an underlying [urgency] that our guys understood we better hook up and play every possession like it's our last."




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