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Morning after: Notes on USF-Marquette



Chmarq With 10 seconds left in Friday's game against No. 8 Marquette, the old basketball coach in Doug Woolard had the same concern that Stan Heath had: guarding against a putback in the final seconds.

"I bet 50 percent of game-winning shots are on offensive rebounds," Woolard said after the game, seeing two Marquette shots bounce off the back of the rim in the final two seconds, giving USF a hard-fought 57-56 win, for the highest-ranked upset in the program's history.

Heath said he had chosen a man-to-man defense figuring it would help USF guard against a second-shot situation, but the Bulls got out with a victory anyway.

Woolard said he was happiest for USF's players, seeing their emotional celebration after finally winning a close one after playing Syracuse, West Virginia and others close but losing by close margins.

"I feel really good for our players -- just a neat feeling to see their reaction," he said. "You kept feeling like it was going to happen, so it was great to see the emotion in the building."

DEFENSE: You cannot expect to get any kind of whistle on a bang-bang layup in the final seconds of a one-point game, but watching highlights on SportsCenter overnight, it sure looked like guard Chris Howard had position to take a charge from guard Wesley Matthews on the final drive. Guard Jesus Verdejo had been on him but slid off at the last second, and Howard shifted over and got his feet planted. He was still on the ground when Lazar Hayward attempted a textbook putback that simply missed, but got the loose ball from that one and flung the ball up into the stands.

Marqcelebrate Times photographer Daniel Wallace got a ton of photos from the celebration, so hopefully I can get more up -- you know what the game means to the veterans like Howard and Verdejo, to Dominique Jones, who hadn't beaten a ranked team before, but you can see the joy on the freshmen who were on the court at the end of the game, guard Justin Leemow and Eladio Espinosa.

TAKING THE FIFTH: Foul trouble can be such a difference maker -- Jones got Marquette's top scorer, Jerel McNeal, to get his fourth foul with 1:54 left, then McNeal turned around and drew Jones' fourth with 1:14 to play. So both leading scorers are playing with four fouls at the end, and Jones gets McNeal to commit his fifth foul with 54 seconds left.

Not a big deal, you think, unless the game goes overtime, but having McNeal out meant Wesley Matthews -- who'd been sprawled out on the floor in pain with trainers attending to him after hyperextending his knee with 11 minutes left in the half -- was taking the big shot at the end.

It's worth noting the little things Heath does to avoid foul trouble. End of the first half, Marquette has the ball after free throws with 3.1 seconds left, and Heath subs in freshman guards B.J. Daniels and Gaby Belardo to play defense for three seconds -- their only action of the night -- just to make sure the regulars don't pick up a costly foul.

THIS AND THAT: You can't fully appreciate what the win means to Verdejo -- huge in the last 10 minutes, with 11 straight points for USF -- until you see him in postgame. Eyes red from an emotional locker room, and missing a tooth from when he collided with a West Virginia player last month, suffering a concussion that caused him to miss a game. ... Amazing thing about Jones missing two free throws in the final minute was that they were USF's only free throws of the second half. ... Give credit to USF's perimeter defense, especially Chris Howard, for Marquette hitting 4 of 24 3-point attempts. ... Leemow had just one point, but playing against perhaps the top backcourt in the league, he had three assists, two steals and zero turnovers in 24 minutes, along with five rebounds. ... Alex Rivas Sanchez, who picked up his third and fourth fouls in a span of 12 seconds with 14 minutes to play, was key in trying to neutralize Marquette's Lazar Hayward. Rivas had nine rebounds in 19 minutes, while Hayward had a game-high 14.

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 5:55pm]


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