49ers mine golden opportunity

With only a few seconds left in regulation, many of the fans listening to the game on the drive home and Charlotte leading Marquette by 10 points, the 49ers' Eddie Basden streaked down the court with only the ball for company.

He had enough time to stop at Charlotte's bench, grab a swig of Gatorade and then drive home a two-handed tomahawk jam.

Instead of showboating, Basden pulled up short of the basket, dribbled to the corner and the 49ers retained possession until the final horn sounded.

The only thing that surpassed Basden's level of class Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center was his basketball prowess.

The senior forward scored a game-high 23 points and recorded team highs in both assists (5) and steals (3) in leading Charlotte to a 76-66 win.

Basden's supporting cast was equally impressive. Curtis Withers added 17 points and 14 rebounds while Brendan Plavich shot 5-for-12 from behind the arc and finished with 20 points. The trio combined for 79 percent of the 49ers' scoring.

"It's certainly one of the best performances by those three together," Charlotte head coach Bobby Lutz said. "Given the circumstances and the nature of the game, all three of those guys really stepped it up."

While Charlotte's three stars were in top form, Marquette's three seniors were limited by injury and illness.

Travis Diener aggravated a mid-foot sprain midway through the game, Marcus Jackson had a fever up until a few hours before tip-off and Todd Townsend battled the flu.

The illnesses created opportunities for freshmen Ryan Amoroso and Ousmane Barro, and both rose to the occasion.

Barro started for the first time this season and set career highs with 22 minutes and nine points. Just as important in his development was that he played 16 minutes in the first half without picking up a foul.

Amoroso shot 5-for-6 from the field, tallied 13 points and blocked 2 shots in 19 minutes of action.

"Ousmane and Ryan continue to improve on a weekly basis," Marquette head coach Tom Crean said. "Ousmane, that was by far the best he played. They're both getting a lot better and if they can continue to improve that will help us all season long."

Even though Marquette (14-4, 2-3) wasn't at full strength, the Golden Eagles had a chance to pull out the win.

With 16:08 left to play Marquette went on a 12-1 run and grabbed a 51-47 lead.

"We knew Marquette was not going away. They came out and really got off to a great start in the second half," Lutz said. "After they took the lead and the crowd got in the game it would have been easy for that one to get away, especially on the road."

Basden wouldn't let that happen, though.

After the 49ers' took a 30-second timeout, he made a layup to cut the lead to two. Then he stripped the ball from Diener, and on Charlotte's next possession he grabbed his own miss and tipped it in to tie the score.

Two possessions later Basden sank a three-pointer at 9:46 that put Charlotte up, 56-54. The 49ers never trailed again.

"I just let it come to me," Basden said. "I knew that if we ran our plays and got the first option or the second option we'd get a basket."

"It just so happened that first or second options on those two plays weren't there. I was wide open on a couple plays and they got me the ball. I was just in rhythm so I just made the huge shots."

DePaul 85 – Marquette 72

Given everything else Travis Diener has done for the Golden Eagles, it didn't seem improbable that the senior guard could single handedly carry his team past DePaul Thursday night, ala Tracy McGrady.

With less than two minutes to play, Diener went on a seven-point surge, momentarily lifting the spirits of Marquette fans who had made the trip to All-State Arena and those watching on futons across campus.

However, Diener's last-minute scoring spree wasn't enough to overcome the Blue Demons, who made 13 of 16 free throws down the stretch and took full advantage of the Golden Eagles' sloppy play and poor rebounding to win, 85-72.

Marquette, which entered the game with a plus 9.2 margin on the glass, got out-rebounded 37-34 and surrendered 21 offensive rebounds.

Equally alarming was the fact that the Blue Demons scored 22 points off the Golden Eagles' 19 turnovers.

Marquette managed to hold Quemont Greer, the leading scorer in Conference USA entering the game, to 15 points (six below his average), but Sammy Mejia and Lorenzo Thompson more than made up for the drop in production.

Mejia, who briefly left the team at the end of December, led all scorers with a career high 26 points and Thompson added a career high 17 points.

This article appeared in The Marquette Tribune on Jan. 25 2005.