ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The shooting problems that have plagued Marquette much of the season returned on Sunday night, costing the No. 25 Golden Eagles a tournament championship they coveted.
Marquette went more than four minutes without a field goal down the stretch, and the Golden Eagles fell to San Diego State 67-59 in the championship game of the Wooden Legacy, their second loss to an unranked opponent in a week.
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“The only reason there’s a number besides our name is because the polls come out on Monday,” Golden Eagles coach Buzz Williams said. “I don’t think we have earned the right to be ranked.”
Marquette (5-3) rallied from a halftime deficit to pull into a 53-all tie with 3 1/2 minutes remaining, but allowed the Aztecs to finish the game on a 14-6 run.
“It was a tie ballgame and they doubled us up the rest of the way,” Williams said. “I think we have to learn how to close out and how to finish.”
Deonte Burton scored 15 points for Marquette, Jamil Wilson added nine and was named to the all-tournament team, and Derrick Wilson also had nine.
Xavier Thames scored a career-high 27 points and was chosen the tournament MVP for the Aztecs, who beat a ranked opponent for the second time in two games.
“We told our team before we took the court about what an honor it was to play in this event and that if we won, we would be remembered,” Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said. “It might have looked like it wasn’t pretty, but it was tough, hard-fought, competitive basketball and I think that wins for you.”
Thames, a senior guard, shot 7 of 16 from the field, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range. He also drained six free throws in the final 40 seconds to help the Aztecs secure the victory.
“None of this would be possible without my teammates,” Thames said. “They were finding me when I was wide open . and coach Fisher is putting me in the right spots.”
Thames averaged 21.3 points and shot 56 percent from the field, including 11 of 15 from 3-point range, in the tournament.
“XT is playing as good of basketball as anybody in the country right now,” Fisher said. “Complete control, not trying too hard and making plays that a fifth-year player makes to be successful.”
Josh Davis had 11 rebounds and joined Thames on the all-tournament team, and Dakari Allen and Winston Shepard each scored eight points for SDSU.
The win marked the first time in program history the Aztecs beat a ranked opponent in consecutive games. They also beat No. 20 Creighton in the tournament semifinals on Friday. SDSU has now defeated a ranked opponent 12 times since January 2010.
The Aztecs shot just 39.3 percent from the field (22 of 56) but made up for it with solid performances from 3-point range (6 for 12) and from the free throw line (17 for 23).
SDSU had a 44-37 lead with 12:56 remaining, but Burton and the Eagles charged back to pull into a 53-53 tie. Burton, a freshman forward, scored 11 points in the spurt.
The Aztecs didn’t let it stay tied for long. Winston Shepard hit a pair of free throws and followed with a jumper that began a 12-2 Aztecs run and ended the Golden Eagles’ comeback attempt.
Marquette was held without a field goal from the 4:32 mark until there was 14 seconds left in the game, a cold stretch that allowed SDSU to pull away.
“We felt like we got some good stops towards the end of the game,” Thames said. “We got some big rebounds.and we made our free throws as well. I thought those were the two keys to the game.”
Thames scored 15 points in the first half to help SDSU take a 32-30 lead at halftime.
Marquette came back and led 50-48 with six minutes remaining in the game, but that lead lasted just 24 seconds as Thames hit a 3-pointer to give San Diego State the lead for good.
Along with Thames, Davis and Wilson, Creighton senior Doug McDermott and George Washington senior Isaiah Armwood were selected to the all-tournament team.