NCAA Division I Sports
NCAA Division I Sports
Anchorage, Alaska - Must be that frigid Alaska air.
How else to describe Marquette University's invariable success at the Great Alaska Shootout? Three trips to Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, three appearances in the 28-year-old tournament's championship game.
The Golden Eagles survived some anxious moments down the stretch to punch their latest ticket Friday night but ultimately outlasted a big and physical Oral Roberts team, 73-70, in front of a crowd of 7,185. They advanced to face South Carolina at 9:30 tonight on ESPN2.
MU's 2001 run to the Shootout title was fueled in large part by then-sophomore Dwyane Wade, who burst onto the national scene by being named the tournament's most outstanding player. But this time it's been a team effort, with timely scoring, rebounding, defense and hustle coming from a number of players.
Dominic James led the way for the Golden Eagles with 15 points and eight assists and Steve Novak added 12 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Ousmane Barro stepped forward as well, scoring a personal-high 12 points and adding a physical presence down low, while Dan Fitzgerald scored nine of his 11 points in the second half.
“I feel like we have to be a team in order to get where we want to be,” James said. “It can't be one guy. We've just got to keep playing together and emphasizing that and if we do that, we can get to the places we need to be.”
Caleb Green, Oral Roberts' 6-foot-8 wide-body, had game highs of 28 points and 12 rebounds but other than that, MU (3-1) more than held its own in the paint and actually won the battle of the boards, 39-37. The Golden Eagles also found a way to win despite going an uncharacteristic 4 for 17 from three-point range.
MU led from the 11-minute 32-second mark of the second half after a layup by Fitzgerald made it 47-45, but there were plenty of dicey moments along the way.
The Golden Eagles appeared to have put Oral Roberts (1-2) away with a 10-2 run highlighted by three dunks that gave them a 68-57 lead with 2:42 remaining. But a couple of Ken Tutt three-pointers, two consecutive turnovers against the press and three more free throws by Tutt after he was fouled by Jerel McNeal made it 71-69 with 34.2 seconds left.
“We just want to put people in position,” Crean said of MU's problems with the press break. “Short passes, long passes. Really, I think where our turnovers came we could have broken the pressure without the pass.”
Fitzgerald and Oral Roberts' Andrew Meloy each traded free throws, making it 72-70 with 10.5 seconds left. James was fouled after Meloy missed his second attempt with 9.7 seconds left and missed his second attempt as well, setting up Oral Roberts for a final shot at tying the game and sending it into overtime.
Jonathan Bluitt rushed up the right side of the floor and jacked up a long three-pointer, which came off hard with four seconds left. James corralled the rebound, ran out and laid the ball into the basket after the buzzer sounded, punctuating the victory.
MU accomplished one of its two primary goals in the first half by out-rebounding Oral Roberts, 21-17. The Golden Eagles also grabbed 10 offensive boards - a major weakness this season - and cashed those in for seven points. Barro, getting his second consecutive start, was the most active on the offensive glass with three rebounds while Novak set his season high with seven overall.
The area MU didn't fare so well in was limiting Green, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds in a drubbing of Southern California on Wednesday. He had his way in the paint with the Golden Eagles' big men, scoring 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting and grabbing five rebounds. The burly Green enjoyed a four-minute run in which he scored nine straight points on a variety of turnarounds, jump hooks and put-backs to put Oral Roberts ahead, 18-15, with 9:24 left.
“We wanted to limit his touches and we did a poor job there,” Crean said. “Outside of the rebounding, that was our biggest key. But we let him get position too low.”
Three consecutive three-pointers - one each from James, Novak and Joe Chapman - put MU back ahead, 24-18 at the 9:44 mark and the Golden Eagles held the advantage until back-to-back baskets gave Oral Roberts a 32-30 lead with 1:00 left. A layup at the buzzer by Fitzgerald made it 32-32 heading into the locker room.