Mon. Final: Marquette 68, N.C. State 65
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Dominic James figured Marquette's best chance at a good shot had to start with the ball in his hands. Naturally, it ended with the point guard hitting from long range.
James' 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left lifted the Golden Eagles past North Carolina State 68-65 on Monday night.
Jerel McNeal scored 20 points and James added 11 of his 18 in the second half for Marquette (10-2), which dropped out of the national rankings earlier in the day. The Golden Eagles stated their case for a return by shooting 60 percent in the second half, led by James' 4-for-5 performance after the break.
"I didn't get confidence from shooting the ball," James said. "I got confidence from getting my teammates layups and getting into that rhythm."
Brandon Costner matched a season high with 24 points on 9-of-10 shooting to lead N.C. State (7-2).
Coach Sidney Lowe's team shot 51 percent but couldn't overcome 18 turnovers -- one shy of tying a season high -- and, more importantly, had no answer down the stretch for James.
With about 30 seconds left and the game tied 65-all, the diminutive guard corralled the rebound of Ben McCauley's miss in traffic, and Marquette coach Buzz Williams called timeout.
"I was just feeling it. I told coach in the huddle that I wanted the ball in my hands -- not necessarily to take a shot," James said. "I feel like (with) the ball in my hands was going to (lead to) the best shot possible."
James dribbled out most of the clock before coming left off a screen and swishing his third 3 of the final 4 minutes. All of them came over Wolfpack point guard Farnold Degand.
"We knew exactly what they were going to do," N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said. "We changed our defense to try and block (James). He reversed his dribble and got the 3. We made the mistake, and he made us pay for it."
McCauley caught Costner's desperation inbounds heave, turned and hit a turnaround jumper -- but it came an instant after the horn, and the forward was a step inside the 3-point arc anyway.
Lazar Hayward added 16 points for the Golden Eagles, who turned N.C. State's miscues into 18 points and threatened to take control much earlier with a pair of big runs midway through the final 20 minutes.
First, they used a 14-7 burst to tie it at 46 on Patrick Hazel's layup with 14 minutes left. Then, James scored eight points -- including consecutive 3s 50 seconds apart -- during the 15-7 run that put Marquette up 65-59 with 3 minutes left.
"Dominic has played at an ultrahigh level all year long, in regards to having poise but yet engaging his defender -- not necessarily engaging his defender to score or to shoot," Williams said. "All four of (his 3s), when he shot them, I thought they were basket."
Back-to-back 3s by Courtney Fells and Costner tied it at 65 with 1:58 to play.
Fells scored 12 points and Tracy Smith added 10 points for the Wolfpack, who at halftime paid tribute to the David Thompson-led 1974 team that won the school's first national championship by beating coach Al McGuire's Marquette team.
Before that, Costner got N.C. State's present-day team off to a good start by scoring their first 11 points -- all in a span of about 1 1/2 minutes -- and finished the opening half with 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
"I definitely felt like we were in control of the game," Costner said. "But ... we gave it away."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)