Archive for Sunday, March 30, 2003

Marquette streaks past Kentucky

Golden Eagles earn spot in Final Four

March 30, 2003


— Dwyane Wade sailed high above a defense that had carried Kentucky all season, slamming the ball through the hoop repeatedly in a stunning game few people expected.

Led by Wade's dazzling performance, the third-seeded Marquette Golden Eagles emphatically ended the No. 1 seed Wildcats' 26-game winning streak with an 83-69 victory Saturday to earn a trip to the Final Four in New Orleans.

"I wanted to take Marquette to the next level, the same level as Al McGuire did," Wade said, referring to the man who coached Marquette to its only national championship, in 1977.

"Maybe we don't have the talent as other schools in previous years, but we look at ourselves as an elite school," Wade said.

Cheered by yellow-clad followers, Marquette's surprising rout in the Midwest Regional final gave the school its third trip to the Final Four and first since the team won it all.

If Wade keeps it up, the Golden Eagles might get another. He showed again why he's one of the nation's top players with a triple-double -- 29 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

"We had no answer for Wade," said Kentucky coach Tubby Smith, whose team gave up its most points since a 115-87 victory Dec. 30 over Tennessee State that started the long winning streak.

Wade started slowly, looking for openings early when Kentucky tried to deny him the ball. Once he got started his teammates followed, and Marquette was off and running.

"I just took what they gave me, and it worked for us," Wade said. "My mind-set was to give it my all. You never want to leave anything on the court, and I told the guys to leave their hearts out there. And once I got going, my teammates found me. Once anybody gets going, it can be tough to stop."

As he stood on the floor celebrating, Marquette's fans began chanting "One more year, One more year" to the talented junior, who is a top NBA prospect.

Wade got plenty of help in this game. Burly 6-foot-10 Robert Jackson, a transfer from Mississippi State, had 24 points and 15 rebounds, and freshman Steve Novak hit five three-pointers and scored 16 to help the Golden Eagles win convincingly.

Marquette (27-5) used a 35-12 run during the final 12 minutes of the first half to take a 45-26 lead against the stunned Wildcats, who hadn't lost since Dec. 28, against Louisville. Kentucky tore through the SEC, going 16-0 and then winning the conference tournament.

"Is it amazing we were up by the margin we were? Yes it was," Marquette coach Tom Crean said. "What Kentucky did the last three months was incredible. Our respect for them is a major reason we knew we had to be on top of our game."

Kentucky's star guard, Keith Bogans, wore a protective brace on the left ankle he sprained in Thursday's semifinal victory over Wisconsin. He scored 15 points on 4-of-11 shooting in 24 minutes, but with his quickness hampered, the Wildcats simply couldn't respond to Marquette's offense.

Kentucky (32-4) pulled within 12 with 10:50 left and had a chance to cut it to 10. But after a great spinning move to the basket, Antwain Barbour was called for an offensive foul.

From there, Wade was too much for the Wildcats to handle. After Scott Merritt hit a jumper, Wade scored Marquette's next 11 points with two three-point plays and a three-pointer to put the victory away.

During the spree, Wade fouled out Kentucky's defensive standout Chuck Hayes with 6:17 left as Marquette went up 72-54.

The 6-5 Wade put his considerable athletic ability on display early when he went straight up under the basket and blocked a shot by 6-9 Marquis Estill.

Travis Diener sank a three-pointer and Novak, a star in Marquette's second-round overtime win against Missouri, hit three three-pointers in a span of 2:30 as the Golden Eagles roared ahead by 21.

Now it's on to the Superdome, where the Golden Eagles will face Kansas University in the national semifinals.

"We feel we have a destiny," Wade said. "Today was just another big game against another great team."

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