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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

Marquette senior Lazar Hayward experiences the agony of defeat ...

In Sports Commentary

... minutes after Washington's Quincy Pondexter hits the deciding shot.

Golden Eagles suffer another heartbreaking loss


Few things in sports can warp a college basketball fan's perspective more quickly than a loss in the NCAA tournament.

Marquette's final game was a doozy in that department.

The sixth-seeded Golden Eagles, battle-tested in close games throughout what was supposed to be a rebuilding season, coughed up a 15-point lead in the second half and then dropped a game when they couldn't prevent Washington's Quincy Pondexter from scoring in the final seconds.

Huskies 80, Golden Eagles 78.

Marquette forward / spiritual compass Lazar Hayward hadn't even picked himself up off the court at the HP Center in San Jose, Calif., when the questions started flowing from frustrated Marquette fans:

How could this happen?

Why didn't Jimmy Butler get some help on the Pondexter drive?

What happened that caused the offense to go flat in the final 10 minutes?

Were the Golden Eagles grossly overrated / over-seeded heading into the tourney?

Was Washington grossly underrated / under-seeded heading into the tourney?

Was the Big East overrated this season?

Was Buzz Williams at fault for the collapse?

Will Buzz leave for another job?

Did Marquette get screwed by the refs?

The bitterness isn't going away soon. For the fourth time in five years, the Golden Eagles' tournament dreams ended in heartbreaking fashion. Tonight, this one stings just as badly as losses to Alabama (2006), Stanford (2008) and Missouri (2009).

But, it shouldn't.

Sure, the Washington game was winnable. Yes, the bracket was set up for Marquette to make a run to the Sweet 16 or beyond.

That doesn't obscure the fact that this team finished 22-12 in a season that wasn't supposed to be special. When Junior Cadougan got hurt in the preseason and and Jeronne Maymon split a few games in, this team was expected to fold.

That didn't happen.

The Golden Eagles didn't play anything close to solid defense against Washington, one of the hotter teams entering the tournament. The Huskies, who made less than 33 percent of their free throws during the season, drained nine of 14 (64.3 percent) and drained 12 of 15 shots during a 20-6 run that erased the deficit.

Marquette didn't make plays down the stretch and paid a price. Pondexter, who scored just four points in the first half, finished with 18.

The Golden Eagles didn't have an answer. But, that shouldn't overshadow the accomplishments of these players.

Williams spoke often of how special this group was. How the players gave maximum effort and bought into his vision of a program that measures itself not only by victories and losses, but by the character of the players who come through it.

Hayward's tenure at Marquette ended when his desperation shot from half court bounced off the backboard as the buzzer sounded. He also missed a late three-pointer, grabbed just two rebounds in the game and turned the ball over five times.

But, he also kept his team afloat during the tough moments during the game, just as he did during a senior year that began when he stepped on the end line in Boise.

The image of Hayward agonizing over the loss will linger. In a way, it was a passing of the torch.

Butler took over the leadership reigns when Pondexter maneuvered around him for a short bank shot with 1.7 seconds left.

Like Hayward, Butler will look to younger, less-experienced players for help. Golden Eagles fans will continue to wait for a big man to arrive on campus to help the cause.

Things may be better. They may be worse. But, they won't be the same.

It didn't have a satisfying finish, but this group gave Marquette an unforgettable ride and a loss, no matter how painful, can't erase the memories and the mark that this group left on the program.


Talkbacks

jk1522 | March 27, 2010 at 10:42 p.m. (report)

Big East overrated? What conference does West Virginia play in?!

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jk1522 | March 20, 2010 at 6:56 p.m. (report)

Let me guess...Kansas was overrated too?!

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jk1522 | March 20, 2010 at 11:48 a.m. (report)

Big East overrated? Why, because a few of their teams lost games that could have gone either way?! Just curious High Life Man, please tell me who the better conference is then...

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High_Life_Man | March 19, 2010 at 10:24 a.m. (report)

Live by the sword, die by it. At least they didn't embarrass themselves by stepping on the base line while inbounding. Big East = overrated.

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TosaJim | March 19, 2010 at 9:08 a.m. (report)

Bad coaching down the stretch.....30 seconds left and they let Washington drain the clock to 8 seconds.....enough time for them to win....not enough time for Marquette to come back

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