Where would they be without him?

It's hard to imagine where the men's basketball team would be without Travis Diener.

When the senior point guard went down with a stress fracture in his left foot and missed three games, head coach Tom Crean talked about how Diener's teammates stepped up and improved in his absence.

But once again Saturday they took a back seat and watched Diener almost single-handedly carry the Golden Eagles to a 71-69 overtime victory at East Carolina.

With time winding down in the extra session, Marquette cleared out and gave Diener room to work his magic. He took a few dribbles on the right wing, then pulled up and drained a fall-away 20-foot jumper over ECU's Japhet McNeil with 2.6 seconds left to clinch the victory for the Golden Eagles.

Diener finished with game highs in points (31), assists (7) and minutes played (44). His scoring spree also moved him into fifth all-time on the Marquette scoring list past assistant coach Bo Ellis.

"He is a senior that has scored 1,800 (actually 1,675) points in his career and is going to play in the NBA next year," East Carolina head coach Bill Herrion said in a statement. "He just makes plays."

It's scary to imagine what Diener could have accomplished if he was completely healthy.

"He's still very limited in practice," Crean said Monday. "Last week he did not practice Monday, he went about an hour Tuesday, he played Wednesday, he didn't go Thursday, and he went 41-and-a-half minutes Friday."

For much of the contest it didn't appear that the late game heroics would be necessary. Marquette held a comfortable 10-point cushion with less than 13 minutes to play.

The lead evaporated after assistant coach Jeff Strohm got in an argument with a Pirates assistant during a time out. The incident, in which both benches received technical fouls, breathed life into both the rowdy fans inside Minges Coliseum and the hometown team.

Led by Mike Cook's nine points, the Pirates went on an 18-5 run with under eight minutes to play and led 63-56 with 2:52 left.

Similar to the Jan. 29 game at Saint Louis when the Golden Eagles went on an 8-0 run to force overtime, Marquette closed out the half on an 8-1 run to extend the game.

Steve Novak, who missed all three of his three-point attempts in the first half, capped the scoring with a three-pointer with 3.6 seconds left.

This article appeared in The Marquette Tribune on Feb. 15 2005.