Jackhammered

His team had just out rebounded South Dakota State 42 to 29, defeated the Jackrabbits by 16 points without Travis Diener at full-strength and improved to 8-0, but Tom Crean was clearly upset.

He entered the media room, dropped his bag on a table, marched to the podium, spoke for 25 seconds, turned on his heel and left abruptly.

"We have to play a lot better. Outside of us winning on the scoreboard and playing a good six or seven minutes of basketball, it was not Marquette basketball tonight," Crean said after the 76-60 victory.

"I certainly wish we would have played better on Dwyane Wade Night; he deserves more, and the fans deserve more. We have a lot of work to do to get better so I'll see you Saturday."

Crean didn't stick around long enough to clarify the source of his displeasure, but he couldn't have been happy with his squad's inability to pull away from SDSU, a program in the process of transitioning from Division II to Division I athletics.

Marquette led 37-26 at the half thanks in large part to Steve Novak's four 3-pointers; however, SDSU went on a 9-2 run early in the second half to cut the lead to five, 46-41, with 12 minutes to play.

But the Golden Eagles bounced back after the Jackrabbits' charge: freshman forward Ryan Amoroso, who scored a collegiate-high 13 points, sank a two-point basket and sophomore guard Dameon Mason got a fast break basket, but Marquette didn't put the game away until the closing minutes.

"Basketball is a game of ups and downs and we knew they just went on a run and so we had to get a stop and turn it around," Novak said. "We knew we had to bear down, start rebounding the ball, lock down on defense and some of our shots started falling."

SDSU would have challenged Marquette even more if their free throws had started falling. The Jackrabbits missed both of their attempts in the first half and went 8-for-14 from the charity stripe in the closing 20 minutes.

"I think for all the struggles we had tonight, had we just made free throws during the game, then at the end we wouldn't have had to foul like we did," SDSU head coach Scott Nagy said. "I feel like the game would have been a lot tighter and it would have changed the game."

Crean also might have been upset with his players' mindset.

"We knew that we would catch them in between games, they're getting ready to play Wisconsin" Nagy said.

"They're looking at South Dakota State at one and five, and we know that they're not going to be emotionally ready for us, I don't care what happens. I've coached long enough to know that.

"I think he probably feels that they weren't (emotionally ready). They obviously didn't play their best. Hopefully some of that had to do with us, too."

Another factor could have stemmed from Diener being limited by a right ankle injury suffered the previous day in practice.

A few hours after the injury Monday Crean said it would be "doubtful" the senior guard would play against the Jackrabbits, yet Diener started the game, playing 18 minutes in the first half and then 10 in the second half.

"Last night I was telling him he wasn't going to play and he said, 'Want to bet?'" Novak said. "That's what Travis is: a tough guy. He was protecting it. He didn't want to do anything stupid on it while he was out there."

Diener finished the game with seven assists, two turnovers and eight points on 2-of-8 shooting from the floor.

If Diener's ankle continues to improve and if Crean can clarify what his team needs to work on, the Golden Eagles' odds of knocking off No. 24 Wisconsin this weekend will be much better.

This article appeared in The Marquette Tribune on Dec. 9 2004.