Hayward, Marquette fall short of Old Spice title

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Senior forward Lazar Hayward enjoyed a successful Old Spice Classic and was named to the All-Tournament team.

Disney World has many times been called “The Happiest Place on Earth.” For 100 minutes, it was. For the last 20 minutes of the Old Spice Classic, it was about as bad as it gets.

The Marquette men’s basketball team suffered a 57-56 defeat to Florida State after holding a 17-point second-half lead in the Old Spice Classic Championship at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex.

“It shows the level of basketball we can play at and gave us a lot of confidence, as well,” forward Lazar Hayward said about playing in the tournament. “Of course we didn’t win the whole thing, which we wanted to do, but I think from that game we can take a look back and see the things we still need to get better at. That tournament showed our team a lot.”

Hayward averaged 22.6 points per game in the team’s three games and was selected to the All-Tournament team.

“I’m glad they voted me on, but … I’m still going to be the same person I am now, still going to work hard, still going to go into every game excited,” Hayward said. “It’s still about being ready to play, being able to grow and being able to lead.”

Fatigue seemed to play a big factor against the Seminoles as the Golden Eagles shot poorly from just about everywhere on the court. Jimmy Butler, who went into the game an 80.5 percent free throw shooter, shot just 4-for-12 from the charity stripe, dropping his percentage to 68.8. Marquette hit just 22.2 percent of its threes and shot 38.9 percent from the field overall.

“I put a lot of it on me because I did go 4-for-12 from the free throw line,” Butler said. “We weren’t that tired we just let up on our defense in the second half. We have to get paint touches and not settle for threes, we took a lot of bad shots and had too many turnovers, which led to their comeback.”

In the first two rounds, Marquette muscled out wins over Xavier and then-No. 15 Michigan, advancing to the tournament final.

In the tournament opener on Thanksgiving, Marquette and Xavier battled back and forth, exchanging the lead nine times. Stellar defense and able free throw shooting propelled the Golden Eagles to a 10-point victory and a date with Michigan, which squeaked out an overtime victory against Creighton in its first-round game.

Despite an all-around impressive game from superstar Manny Harris (22 points, eight rebounds), Marquette’s pressure defense and clutch 3-point shooting was too much for the Wolverines. In the game’s waning moments, Michigan could not find the basket and shot an abysmal 3-for-20 from 3-point range. The Golden Eagles prevailed, 79-65, and moved on to the finals.

“It showed a lot of people what we can do and how hard we work,” Butler said. “Even though nobody wants to give us any respect. We’ll earn it day in and day out.”

The Golden Eagles forced 29 turnovers in the first two games and will need to continue that pressure as the season progresses.

“Being that we’re so small, we’re going to have to do something better than our opponents,” sophomore guard Darius Johnson-Odom said. “If we’re playing hard on defense and we’re playing scrappy and just play stay tough, we know we have a fighting chance.”

With the North Carolina State Wolfpack coming to the Bradley Center Saturday, the Golden Eagles will need to forget about what could have been in Disney and make the Bradley Center the happiest place on Earth.