NCAA Division I Sports
NCAA Division I Sports
Turning things around
Amoroso, Novak carry Golden Eagles to title
By TODD ROSIAK
Anchorage, Alaska - Talk about drastic improvement.
Marquette's win over South Carolina was hardly a slam dunk, but the Golden Eagles were able to pull the victory in overtime.
Exactly a week after failing to win their own tournament on their home court, the Marquette Golden Eagles ran the table at the Great Alaska Shootout, defeating the South Carolina Gamecocks, 92-89, in an overtime thriller in front of a crowd of 7,496 at Sullivan Arena on Saturday night.
Sophomore forward Ryan Amoroso exploded for a collegiate-high 30 points - including nine of the Golden Eagles' 12 in overtime - on 11-for-17 shooting to win player of the game honors and lead MU to its second title in the 28-year-old event. MU also won it in 2001.
Senior Steve Novak added 28 points on 6-for-10 shooting from three-point range, and freshman Dominic James had 12 points and nine assists for MU. South Carolina, which shot 54.4% for the game, had four players finish in double figures and was led by Tarence Kinsey's 20 points.
South Carolina rallied from a 55-49 deficit to take a 63-58 lead with 11 minutes 32 seconds remaining in the game on the strength of a 14-3 run. Balkman had seven points in that span. Three-pointers by Amoroso and Novak kept MU in it, however, and two more threes by James and Amoroso put the Golden Eagles back in front, 74-72, at the 5:21 mark.
MU seemed to have taken control after another James three made it 80-76 with 58.3 seconds left, but South Carolina pulled even when Kinsey buried a three of his own from the right wing and was fouled by Ousmane Barro. Kinsey made the free throw, tying it at 80-80 with 46.8 seconds left.
James twice missed shots to win the game in regulation, the first coming on a drive with 23.9 seconds left and again on a runner in the lane with under 10 seconds left. Wesley Matthews appeared to have been fouled while trying to put a shot back up before the buzzer, but no foul was called and the game went into overtime.
It was there that Amoroso simply took over. The 6-foot-8, 245-pounder opened the extra period with a layup and after a three-pointer from Novak, followed up with a pair of free throws that made it 87-84 with 1:27 left. South Carolina rattled off five quick points to regain the lead briefly at 89-87, but three-point play by Amoroso with 27.5 seconds left sealed the deal. He added two more free throws with 4.1 seconds left for some insurance, and South Carolina's Tre' Kelley missed a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied it.
MU received a big boost with just under 15 minutes remaining in the first half when James drew a charging foul on Balkman, sending him to the bench with two fouls. The 6-8 Balkman, South Carolina's most productive big man coming into the game, had six points, three rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot in his brief stint matched up against Barro, but coach Dave Odom elected to sit him the rest of the way.
MU trailed, 16-15, when its latest contributor down low stepped forward. Like Barro did in the victory over Oral Roberts on Friday, Amoroso took it upon himself to carry the load for a time and scored nine straight points while displaying the breadth of his offensive game.
After scoring on a layup and then receiving a bit of a wakeup call after taking an elbow to the chops from 6-10, 286-pound Ousmane Konate, he scored on a jumper from the top of the key, a putback and finally a three-pointer from the top of the key that pulled the Golden Eagles to within 27-24 with 5:55 left in the first half.
Two threes by Novak got MU into the lead at 36-35 with 2:56 remaining and Amoroso again asserted himself, scoring on a pair of layups sandwiched around two Jerel McNeal free throws. Three-pointers by Rocky Trice and Brandon Wallace on the Gamecocks' final two possessions of the half - with Wallace's coming with just 3.5 seconds left - sent South Carolina into the locker room with a 43-42 lead.
Novak went 3 for 4 from three-point range and finished the first half with 13 points, while Amoroso added 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting and six rebounds. MU shot 51.9% (14 for 27) and also led, 15-10, on the backboards.
Kelley, on the strength of 3-for-3 shooting from behind the arc, led the Gamecocks with 11 points. South Carolina shot a blistering 58.1% (18 for 31).
The teams combined to go 12 for 22 from three-point rang