Marquette 57, St. John’s 55

When Marquette plays another Big East team no one is allowed out

of their seat in the final minutes.

How about this stat?

In their 19 games against conference foes this season, the

Golden Eagles have had 12 games decided by three points or less.

They have won six of the last seven of those, the latest a 57-55

victory over St. John’s on Wednesday in the second round of the Big

East tournament.

Marquette, the No. 5 seed, moves on to face fourth-seeded and

10th-ranked Villanova in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Here’s s

surprise: Their first two meetings this season were both two-point

Villanova wins.

“We were 2-5, and since that time we’ve been in one- and

two-possession games,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said of the

start to the conference season. “… Everything has changed. The

whole deal is this, our margin of error has never changed.

“The games that we lost, the lessons we learned, are just as

important as the games we won by one or two possessions as

well.”

The Golden Eagles (21-10) looked like they were on their way to

a laugher against St. John’s (17-15) in a rematch of a second-round

matchup from last season. Marquette won that game 74-45 and it was

ahead 27-17 at halftime Wednesday, the Red Storm’s worst half of

the season as they shot 29.6 percent (8 of 27).

St. John’s, which trailed by 14 points in the first half,

started hitting shots and dominating the backboards. The Red Storm,

who had a 22-6 rebound advantage in the second half, took the lead

three times, bringing a crowd of about 15,000 at Madison Square

Garden to its feet.

The last Red Storm lead was 53-52 after a free throw by Paris

Horne with 2:22 to go.

David Cubillan’s 3-pointer with 1:11 left gave Marquette the

lead for good at 55-53.

D.J. Kennedy of St. John’s was forced into a tieup and the

possession arrow favored Marquette.

“I felt like when I had an opportunity to make a play for the

team, it’s a play I usually make,” Kennedy said. “I just wasn’t

able to get an opportunity to make a play for my team. It was great

defense by (Lazar) Hayward.”

Hayward had 20 points and nine rebounds for Marquette. His two

free throws with 35 seconds left made it a four-point game and

despite the Golden Eagles missing the front end of two 1-and-1s in

the final 19 seconds, the Red Storm only managed one field goal the

rest of the way and a desperation 3 at the buzzer by Malik Boothe

was well short.

It was Marquette’s 11th straight win over St. John’s, which was

led by Kennedy and Sean Evans with 12 points each.

When these teams met at St. John’s on Feb. 24, Jimmy Butler hit

a shot at the overtime buzzer for a 63-61 Marquette victory.

“Coach (Norm) Roberts doesn’t get the credit he deserves for

how hard his players play,” Williams said “… If you ask our

players who’s the hardest playing team in the league, they would

say St. John’s. I thought they were the hardest playing team

today.”

But that wasn’t enough to keep the Red Storm, who beat

Connecticut 73-51 on Tuesday, out of the quarterfinals again, a

round they last reached in 2003.

“We didn’t shoot the ball very well in the first half, but we

came back,” Roberts said. “We just talked about make the extra

pass, make one more pass – they do a great job of rotating in the

first half and making the ball stick in our hands a little bit. I

thought the guys did a good job of making the extra pass in the

second half.”

Marquette entered the game ninth in the nation in 3-point

shooting at 39.9 percent. That number improved after a 10 of 18

effort against St. John’s, which was just 3 of 15 from beyond the

arc.

“We’re starting to learn how to play in close games,” Hayward

said, “we definitely understand the value of one possession is

very, very vital to us, and hopefully that will transpire in the

NCAA tournament.”

First, they will face Villanova in hopes of their second

semifinal appearance.

“We’ll have our hands full,” Williams said. “They haven’t

played since Saturday, you just saw how hard we had to play to

escape, so we’ll have a lot to do over the next 22 hours to get

prepared to play.”