Marquette tips Cincinnati in OT
Hayward emerged from his shooting slump at the end, hitting a three-pointer that sent the game to overtime and adding five more points Sunday while rallying Marquette to a 79-76 Big East Conference victory over Cincinnati.
It was a significant game for two teams jostling to make the NCAA tournament. Marquette (17-9, 8-6 Big East) entered seventh in the conference standings, and Cincinnati (15-11, 6-8) was eighth. Marquette is one of the league’s hottest teams, winning six of seven.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Cincinnati’s Deonta Vaughn, who missed a three-point attempt to tie at the end of overtime. “We knew we needed this win right here.”
Hayward had a second straight subpar game, missing nine of 10 shots before hitting the tying three with 27.5 seconds left in regulation.
“It was a little bit of a struggle offensively,” said Hayward, who was coming off a 4-of-17 shooting performance in a loss to Pittsburgh. “My teammates helped me out. They were telling me not to get down, to keep taking shots.”
Rashard Bishop then missed a long jumper, sending it to overtime, and another three by Hayward put Marquette ahead to stay.
Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler led Marquette with 20 points apiece. Bishop had 17 for Cincinnati.
Hayward steadied the Golden Eagles through the end of a wild, back-and-forth game of big runs and blown chances.
Cincinnati gave Marquette a chance to catch up when Ibrahima Thomas missed the second of his two free throws with 43 seconds left, leaving the Bearcats ahead 67-64. Free-throw shooting has been one of Cincinnati’s biggest weaknesses all season – the Bearcats went only 8 of 16 from the line on Sunday.
“The game comes down to one stat: Marquette is 16 of 17 from the foul line, Cincinnati is 8 of 16,” Bearcats coach Mick Cronin said. “It pretty much sums it up.”
After Thomas missed from the line, Hayward confidently took a shot from several steps behind the arc and swished it, tying the score at 67 with 28 seconds to go. The Marquette bench erupted.
“It was a big shot by a big-time player at a big-time moment, not necessarily in the game but arguably in our Big East season,” coach Buzz Williams said. “Our team has great faith in him.”
Hayward saw the reaction after his 3 tied it. To that point, he had been 1 of 6 from behind the arc.
“They were probably like, ’Man, good shot. Finally one goes down for you,”’ he said.
Hayward scored to open overtime, and his 3-pointer made it 73-70 with 2:13 to go. Butler had a pair of free throws and a dunk off an inbounds play, and Maurice Acker made two free throws with 7 seconds left for the final margin.
Vaughn’s 3-point attempt was off, and Hayward got the rebound with 3 seconds left, his 11th of the game.
Both teams pulled off long runs in the first half, which ended with Cincinnati up 39-33. The Golden Eagles went on a 17-0 run midway through the half. Joseph Fulce, Butler and Johnson-Odom each had five points in the run, which built the lead to 31-18.
The Bearcats responded with a 14-0 spurt featuring 3s by Dion Dixon and Larry Davis, who had nine points apiece in the half. Cincinnati outscored Marquette 21-2 over the final seven minutes of the half, limiting Marquette to a pair of free throws. The Golden Eagles missed all seven shots and had four turnovers.
Marquette ended its nine-minute field-goal drought when Johnson-Odom made a three-point play a minute into the second half. There were two ties and four lead changes in the half, which came down to Thomas’ missed free throw and Hayward’s clutch 3.