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Marquette Stops Pitt in the UCLA Audition

Crean or Howland? Guerrero's not tipping his hand, but the Golden Eagle coach prevails in matchup, 77-74.

March 28, 2003|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

MINNEAPOLIS — Do 40 minutes eclipse four years?

Does one game between Big East and Conference USA champions determine the destiny of the eighth-place team in the Pacific 10?

Only UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero knows and he is laying so low in the coaching search it's unclear he even watched Marquette defeat Pittsburgh, 77-74, Thursday night in a Midwest Regional semifinal at the Metrodome.

It's assumed he did. He was spotted on the UCLA campus Thursday and offices in the Morgan Center are wired for DirecTV.

Whether Tom Crean of Marquette gained an edge over Ben Howland of Pittsburgh by leading his team to the Elite Eight for the first time will be known shortly. Tom Izzo, Crean's close friend, said he believes Crean would take a call from Guerrero after the season.

Howland is available now, a week earlier than he hoped. Guerrero is not believed to have directly contacted any candidates yet.

"We are really disappointed," Howland said. "We thought we really had a chance to make a run at the Final Four and a national championship."

Howland chose discipline over practicality, benching his best three-point shooter, Donatas Zavackas, for the last eight minutes because Zavackas threw a tantrum and took his shoes off.

Instead it was senior guard Brandin Knight who took -- and missed -- an off-balance three-point shot with five seconds to play and Marquette leading by three.

"He pouted," Howland said of Zavackas, a senior forward. "We aren't going to play games, so he wasn't going to play anymore. He made a mistake and it's something he can never get back."

Howland admitted to a mistake himself, spending too much time talking to his assistants during a timeout in the waning moments. He had to call another one -- Pittsburgh's last -- in order to relay the strategy to his players and could not stop the clock during the last possession.

Let the debate begin about which team has the better coach, but Marquette (26-5) definitely had the best player. Dwyane Wade was the difference.

The junior guard scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half, several on acrobatic drives through the lane.

Marquette got strong post play from Scott Merritt and Robert Jackson, who combined for 33 points. The Golden Eagles shot 57.7% in the second half and became only the third team to score more than 70 points against Pittsburgh (28-5).

Marquette led by 11 points with 4:44 left, but Pittsburgh pulled within one three times in the last 1:25.

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