MU blows lead, falls to Washington in opening round

SAN JOSE, Calif. — In their match-up against No. 11 seed Washington in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, the Marquette Golden Eagles thought they had a secret weapon.

Senior forward Lazar Hayward played with Washington star Quincy Pondexter on the USA Basketball World University Games team last summer.

But as Washington defeated Marquette 80-78, it appeared Hayward’s inside information wasn’t enough to lift the No. 6 seed Golden Eagles over the Huskies in the opening round.

It turns out an isolation play called for the best player on one of the highest scoring teams in the country beats any game plan.

From the get go, Washington came out running. Within the first four minutes, the two teams combined for twenty points, and Marquette coach Buzz Williams’ worst fear had come true. On Wednesday, Williams said he feared a high-flying, high-scoring game. He instead preferred his brand of ball control basketball that got his team to the Big Dance.

“We’re not a bad up-tempo team, but they play much better fast,” Hayward said.

Pondexter struggled early, but teammate Isaiah Thomas picked up the slack, scoring 17 points in the first half on 6-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range and 2-of-2 from the stripe.

But despite playing Washington’s up-tempo game, the Golden Eagles hung close before grabbing a 43-42 lead heading into the intermission.

In the second frame, it appeared for a moment as if Williams and Hayward were dead wrong about the pace of the game. Marquette mounted a seemingly instant 17-3 run to pull ahead 60-45 with 13:58 remaining.

But by the 10:10 mark, that lead was down to four and all momentum belonged to the Huskies.

“Where we got beat was we weren’t doing what we needed to do defensively, and that was because the game gets going way too fast,” Williams said.

Pondexter found his shot and sophomore Elston Turner turned in 11 second half points to give Washington its first lead since the 2:14 mark in the first half.

Clutch shooting by Hayward and made free throws by Jimmy Butler and Maurice Acker gave Marquette a brief lead before Washington tied it back up at 78 with 2:09 left. With just over a minute to go, Butler drove and dished to an open Darius Johnson-Odom who fumbled the pass out of bounds.

On the ensuing possession, Thomas missed a 3-pointer, but Pondexter grabbed the offensive rebound and reset. With his dribble at the top of the key, his teammates receding to the wings and the clock counting down, Pondexter put the ball on the floor, blew past Butler’s matador defense and laid it in, leaving just 1.7 seconds on the clock.

“Having my hands on the ball the last five seconds is something you dream of as a kid,” Pondexter said. “It’s one of those storybook shots.”

Williams set up a play for Hayward out of the timeout and the senior got off a good look from just around half court. For a fleeting moment, the shot looked good, but it soared just a bit long to send Marquette home empty handed.