Marquette 77, Pittsburgh 74

March 28, 2003 at 9:10 AM
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MINNEAPOLIS, March 28 (UPI) -- Dwayne Wade poured in 20 of his 22 points in a sensational second half Thursday night as Marquette held off a late surge to eliminate Pittsburgh, 77-74, in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Region.

Marquette (26-5) advanced to a regional final for the first time since Al McGuire coached the school to the 1977 national championship. The third-seeded Golden Eagles meet Kentucky on Saturday with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

Wade scored on an array of jumpers, dunks and drives that displayed his amazing athletic skills. His dunk on a fast break opened a 70-59 advantage with 4:51 left.

"Our record since he's been here is 52-12," noted Marquette Coach Tom Crean. "Whenever he's 'struggling,' he's always finds ways to make his teammates better. That's why we're sitting here tonight."

Pittsburgh (28-5) used an 11-1 run, pulling within one point on Chevy Troutman's layup with 1:28 left. Marquette's Scott Merritt made a pair from the line before Brandin Knight answered with a layup.

The Golden Eagles patiently ran their offense before Wade took a handoff from Travis Diener. Wade blew past Knight, hung in the air and banked home a tough layup over the outstretched arm of Troutman with 27 seconds remaining.

Knight responded with a layup to again pull Pittsburgh within one point. Merritt's two foul shots then gave Marquette a 77-74 lead with 11 seconds left.

The Panthers once more went to Knight, who got Wade in the air before missing a three-pointer with six seconds to go.

Marquette's Travis Diener missed a pair of foul shots, giving Pitt one final chance. But Carl Krauser's three-pointer from beyond halfcourt sailed over the backboard as the Panthers' 11-game winning streak ended.

"Wade had a great game and really did an unbelievable job of taking over at the offensive end," said Pittsburgh Coach Ben Howland. "He's just a great player."

"If you have a bad first half, it doesn't mean you'll have a bad second half," Wade said. "I always keep that in mind, and my teammates and coaches gave me confidence. Even though I struggled in the first half, I still had the confidence to do it in the second half."

"He has the ability to take over the game at any time," Diener said. "That's what makes him probably the best player in the nation."

Marquette hit 52 percent of its shots from the field as well as six of 12 three-point attempts while edging Pittsburgh on the boards, 24-22.

After the Big East Conference went 8-0 in the first two rounds of the tournament, both of that league's teams in action Thursday night were defeated. Notre Dame joined Pittsburgh on the sidelines.

The Big East's Connecticut and Syracuse will be in action Friday night.

In addition, Pittsburgh became the third No. 2 seed to be knocked out of the tournament, joining Wake Forest and Florida.

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