NEW YORK-After a regular season full of nail-biters, it was only fitting that Marquette's first post-season game came down to the last minute.
The Golden Eagles held off a late surge from St. John's and rallied to win, 57-55, in the second round of the Big East Tournament.
Senior David Cubillanchit a clutch three-pointer with just over a minute remaining to give the Golden Eagles a two-point lead. Then Lazar Hayward followed with two free throws on the next possession to seal the victory.
Hayward finished with a game-high 20 points and Cubillan added 11 of his own. The third of Marquette's senior trio, Maurice Acker, finished with 10 points and five assists.
"Regardless of locale, I'd play with theses guys in the street and anywhere in the country," MU head coach Buzz Williams said of his seniors. "I hope it will last as long as it can last. Whether it's a one possession game or a ten possession game, I absolutely love who these guys are as human beings."
Marquette put together an excellent first half on defense, limiting the Red Storm to just 17 points. Making the stand even more impressive was that they did it without one of their best defenders, Jimmy Butler, who picked up two early fouls to open the game.
Offensively, Marquette made their first five three-point field goals and led by as many as 14 in the opening half. Hayward scored 12 in the first half on 4-of-6 shooting, including two deep threes to help Marquette take a 10-point lead into intermission.
The second half was a different story, however, as the Red Storm trimmed the lead to one in the first seven minutes of the half thanks to Sean Evans, who hit his first four shots of the half. Evans finished the game with 12 points.
"I just think in the second half we got a little too stagnant and a little too passive," Hayward said. "We weren't really aggressive in the first half, and we definitely have to do a better job of attacking when we have leads instead of being passive."
St. John's took its first lead of the game with just over seven minutes left on a Justin Brownlee layup. The Red Storm would extend the lead to four before exchanging baskets with Marquette over the next five minutes.
Cubillan then responded with his three-pointer that gave Marquette the lead for good. The play call was designed for Hayward, but Cubillan caught St. John's cheating the play, leaving him wide open to knock down the eventual game-winner.
With the win, Marquette advances to take on Villanova – a team they have lost to twice this season by a combined four points – in the quarterfinals tomorrow. Williams understands the test his team will face and said he will do his best to get his team ready.
"We'll have our hands full," Williams said. "They haven't played since Saturday, and you just saw how hard we had to play just to escape [against St. John's]."