Sunday, March 23, 2008
Marquette loses a heartbreaker to Stanford in OT
Marquette played Stanford about as tough as you can. That's what made their 82-81 overtime loss to the Stanford Cardinal so difficult to swallow.
Knowing they'd have to get every player's best effort to try and slow down the #3seeded Cardinal's 7-foot Lopez twins, the #6 seeded Golden Eagles got that. MU also ran every available big body at them at some point, used up almost every available foul and tried every trick in the book.
Yet it was Brook Lopez's turnaround jump shot with just 1.3 seconds remaining that proved to be the difference, as it sent Stanford on to the Sweet 16 next weekend and MU back to Milwaukee to reflect on a memorable season that ended in heartbreaking fashion.
"It was an extremely tough shot. He hit a number of tough shots down the stretch," said MU point guard Dominic James. "Our guys were battling down low, and it just happened to fall. This team is all about facing hard times and people doubting us. We showed a lot of character throughout the tournament, throughout the entire season.
Brook Lopez finished with 30 points - 28 of which came in the second half and overtime - and Robin Lopez added 18 to lead Stanford, which shot 50.0% in the second half and 62.5% in the decisive final 5 minutes. MU was paced by Jerel McNeal's personal-high 30 points, 9 of which came in the extra session on 3 three-pointers.
After finishing regulation tied, 71-71, the overtime essentially wound up being Brook Lopez vs. McNeal, with the difference being Lopez was knocking down layups and short jumpers while McNeal was hitting three-pointers.
The lead changed six times up to the final possession, with McNeal's third and final three making it 81-80 with 2:18 left. Stanford had three shots at retaking the lead - all on the same possession - but missed all three.
MU kept the ball with some timely offensive rebounding from there, and twice had shots to extend its lead. But twice McNeal missed mid-range jumpers, the second of which Stanford corralled and got to midcourt, where the Cardinal called time out with 9.2 seconds remaining to set up a final shot.
"I was just trying to do whatever I could to help my team win," McNeal said. "We've been known in the overtime, crunch time, for shooting jump shots, and they were shooting layups. They were going to win shooting layups over jump shots."
It came as no surprise that the ball went directly into Brook Lopez, who, as he had done all game to that point, scored from the left block. The game-clincher came at the expense of Dwight Burke, who had good position and challenged as best he could, but simply couldn't get high enough to affect the shot.
"The shot that he made was a tough shot," said MU coach Tom Crean. "Brook made big plays, and he caught it so deep that we couldn't get our double-team down there."
MU called time out with 1.3 seconds left to set up a final play, which saw Lazar Hayward throwing a baseball pass to Dan Fitzgerald at midcourt. Fitzgerald got his hands on the ball but couldn't control it, and time expired, ending the Golden Eagles' season in the most painful way possible.
Photo credit AP