Lazar Hayward led the way for Marquette as the Golden Eagles used a big second half to recover from a heartbreaking loss to Georgetown and put away Florida Gulf Coast 67-37 on Senior Night Tuesday evening at the Bradley Center.
MILWAUKEE – Lazar Hayward led the way for Marquette as the Golden Eagles used a big second half to recover from a heartbreaking loss to Georgetown and put away Florida Gulf Coast 67-37 on Senior Night Tuesday evening at the Bradley Center.
Hayward bounced back from a tough outing against Georgetown to finish with a game-high 18 points and 11 rebounds in just 21 minutes of play. This was Hayward's fourth double-double of the season.
"He's a good player," said Head Coach Tom Crean of Hayward. "He got some great looks early and his confidence was sky-high and he was extremely excited to play today. I loved his leadership the past few days. When adversity hits and you loose a game you're always going to see how people react to that and I thought Lazar showed great leadership from one game to the next."
Two other Golden Eagles scored in double figures – Dominic James (11 points), and Wesley Matthews (12 points) – as all 15 players saw action and Marquette won its final home game of the season.
The second half was the turning point in the game for Marquette (22-7, 11-6 Big East), but it did not start out quite as they had hoped. Florida Gulf Coast (10-21) came out of the locker room and went on an 8-0 run to cut the MU advantage to five points at the 17:49 mark. This however, was as close as the visiting Eagles would get as Marquette went on 37-12 run to finish the game. Marquette was able to fuel this run by forcing 15 turnovers and getting out in transition.
The main highlight of this impressive run fittingly came from a senior. Lawrence Blackledge came off of the bench in his final home game and was able to bring the crowd to its feet on consecutive plays. At the 9:32 mark, Blackledge forced a steal and threw down one of his most impressive dunks to date – a powerful two-handed reverse slam. Just moments later, he found the scorer's sheet again by laying in a pass from Matthews in transition.
"We all look to him to bring some energy to us and it always works," said Hayward about Blackledge. "He's just a real good person to be around and to have as a teammate."
The first half saw Marquette get off to a quick start. Thanks to a 12 point contribution in the game's opening five minutes by Hayward, the Golden Eagles were able to jump out to a 16-4 lead by the 15:56 mark. Florida Gulf Coast however, did fight back. The visiting Eagles got to within six points at the 7:50 mark by making use of numerous Marquette turnovers. For the half, Florida Gulf Coast forced Marquette into 11 turnovers and was able to remain close at intermission, 30-17, despite being held to 24.0% shooting from the field.
Other seniors also made contributions in their final home game. Ousmane Barro turned in a solid line with seven points, eight rebounds, and three blocks. Dan Fitzgerald came off of the bench to knock down a three-pointer during the huge second half run and also contribute three rebounds, an assist and a steal. And the beloved walk-on Tommy Brice saw two minutes of playing time much to the delight of the student section.
"They work really hard and are great people who always work to succeed and I think that is a great thing to have, " said Hayward alluding to the senior class. "I really look forward to seeing those guys after they leave here to see what they're going to do."
For the game Marquette was able to hold Florida Gulf Coast to just 37 points, which ties for the fewest allowed this season. The Golden Eagles were also able to force 25 turnovers and hold the visitors to just 27.7% shooting from the field.
Florida Gulf Coast did not have a single double digit scorer but was led by four players who finished with six points.
Marquette returns to action for their final regular season game Saturday in Syracuse to face the Orange at 3:00 p.m. CST on ESPN.