Hornets squashed

Senior point guard Travis Diener followed former teammate Dwyane Wade's example Wednesday night against Delaware State.

When Wade played for Marquette, he was sometimes criticized for a lack of production in the early part of games.

At Tuesday's pregame press conference, Tom Crean said he never felt the attacks were justified because Wade made a point to get his teammates involved in the offense before he scored a few points for himself.

After Diener logged only 10 minutes, recorded five points and dished out three assists in the first half, he picked up his play over the final 20 minutes and led the Golden Eagles to a 66-60 victory.

"Travis is our leader, there's no question about it. I don't think you're going to find many better," head coach Tom Crean said. "He gets to the free throw line for us, he makes shots, he makes passes, he's completely unselfish, he's completely unselfish."

The Hornets — who lost despite taking a five-point lead into halftime against then-No. 6 Illinois in their first game of the season — came tantalizingly close to upsetting Marquette.

Twice Delaware State cut the Golden Eagles lead to four, and both times Diener had an answer.

The Hornets scored six straight points to start the second half and closed the gap to 34-30 with 18:04 to go.

Less than three minutes later, Marquette was back in front by 14.

During the retaliation, Diener went on a tear. He scored five points, three of which were from the charity stripe after he was fouled on an attempt from behind the arc. He also had a steal and assisted on Steve Novak's 3-pointer.

Delaware State came right back and trimmed the lead to 46-42 with 9:12 when sophomore guard Jahsha Bluntt, the Hornets' leading scorer on the night with 17 points, sank a 3-pointer.

Diener responded with two 3-point plays of his own. At 8:49 he hit a trey, and on the next rip down the court was fouled by Bluntt, made a layup and sank the ensuing free throw to put Marquette up by 10 with 8:19 to play.

"I think someone needed to step up and make a play," said Diener, who finished with a game-high 20 points.

"I had a couple open looks, I got to the free-throw line and just fed off that.

"I didn't play much in the first half so I was fresh and had a lot of energy. Once I got to the free-throw line I think that helped the team and it just helped my shot."

The limited minutes had a lot to do with the two fouls he picked up in the first half.

"Some nights I would have had him back in there right away with the two fouls, but I chose not to tonight to let the other guys play through it," Crean said.

That allowed junior forward Joe Chapman, sophomore guard Dameon Mason and freshman guard Rob Hanley to step in and fill the void.

Mason had seven points in the first 20 minutes and Chapman led the team in scoring at the break with eight points.

However, Chapman also had five turnovers and the team finished with 18, but Crean said he felt it was more important to get those players court time than exercise a tight leash.

"Right now we're trying to move (Diener) around a little and trying to get other people handling the ball," Crean said. "You know practice can give you an idea, but practice doesn't give you the experience. The games give you the experience.

"You don't hear many guys talking about 'Yeah I really handled it well in our 33rd practice.'"

Added Diener: "We did turn the ball over 18 times, which is way too often if you're going to try to win big …

"Sometimes we got hurried and we didn't pass like we should have and we were kind of playing passive and we made some stupid passes and stupid reads.

"When the team gets to be like that you got to calm down and be patient with the ball and still attack."

Against Delaware State, Diener provided the calming effect.

The victory kicked off a seven game homestand that will stretch through a match-up with Indiana-Purdue Ft. Wayne Jan. 2 of next year, and includes games against Wisconsin Dec. 11 and Arizona Dec. 18.

This article appeared in The Marquette Tribune on Dec. 2 2004.