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Marquette holds off Utah State 58-57 in 1st round

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DOUG ALDEN | March 20, 2009 03:40 PM EST | AP

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BOISE, Idaho — Lazar Hayward made the big plays, Marquette made its foul shots. Needing a late rally, that was enough for the Golden Eagles.

Hayward scored 26 points and Marquette hit 10 straight free throws down the stretch to hold off Utah State 58-57 Friday in the first round of the West Regional.

The Golden Eagles blew a 14-point lead, then overcame a 49-43 deficit. Hayward spurred the comeback, muscling for key baskets and rebounds and drawing a couple of big fouls.

Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews each scored 14 points for sixth-seeded Marquette (25-9).

Jared Quayle led Utah State (30-5) with 18 points. The 11th-seeded Aggies recovered from a dismal first half by shooting 12-for-20 to start the second half, but couldn't hang on and lost their fourth straight first-round game.

Hayward put Marquette back up 52-51 on two free throws with 1:45 left and McNeal made his biggest play of the day, driving for a layup with 1 minute left. The Golden Eagles led the rest of the way.

The Golden Eagles went 14-for-17 from the foul line in the second half, including 10 in a row as they regained the lead and held off one final push by their Western Athletic Conference opponent.

Pooh Williams scooped up a loose ball and banked in a 3-pointer from straightaway as the shot clock wound down to get Utah State within 56-54 with 23 seconds left. The Aggies then got another break when McNeal went 1-for-2 from the line after a quick foul with 18 seconds remaining.

But Gary Wilkinson's 3-point attempt for Utah State that would've tied it clanged off the rim, Hayward got the rebound and the Golden Eagles sealed it with another free throw. The Aggies threw in a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Wilkinson finished with 15 points, but only four rebounds. Tai Wesley scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half before fouling out in the final minute.

Marquette won despite shooting just 38 percent in the second half. The Big East representatives controlled the first half, pulling down 10 of the first 12 rebounds and leading by as much as 14 before Utah State stormed out of halftime with a 10-0 run.

After a 3-pointer by Maurice Acker put Marquette up 29-18, Utah State scored the next 10 points _ getting six from Wesley on two layups and a dunk as the Aggies passed the ball around to clear out room inside. Jared Quayle also hit a 3-pointer during the run, which had the large contingent that made the four-hour drive from northern Utah finally gave the fans something to cheer.

Hayward gave the Golden Eagles a little room on a jumper from the top of the key that made it 43-38, then the Aggies reeled off eight straight points. Quayle broke a 43-all tie with a 3-pointer, giving the Aggies their first lead of the game and Tyler Newbold hit again from beyond-the-arc to put Utah State up 49-43.