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Mason hits FT for dramatic win

3/6/2004

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Freshman Dameon Mason was thrust into the
hero's role strictly by accident.

His three-point play with eight-tenths of a second left gave
Marquette an 81-80 victory over Louisville (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today, No. 25 AP) on Saturday.

The ball was supposed to go to Steve Novak or back to Scott
Merritt, but when the play broke down, Mason found an opening on
the left wing, caught the inbounds pass from Merritt with 2.6
seconds left and swished a jumper as he was being hammered by
Alhaji Mohammed, tying the game at 80.

The buzzer went off and the backboard lights went on, but the
officials huddled and put time back on the clock after watching
replays.

Mason sank his free throw, following a timeout.

The Cardinals' long desperation inbounds pass was batted away as
the buzzer sounded and students stormed the court to celebrate
Marquette's second upset victory over Louisville this season.

"He made a real name for himself today," Marquette coach Tom
Crean said of Mason, who wasn't even supposed to be an option on
the play.

"We ran the last play wrong," Mason said. "I just happened to
get in the right spot."

Mason said the play had been changed twice, "so when we ran the
play, everybody ran to the wrong spots. So, we were all confused.
But, hey, like I said, things seemed to work out well for us."

When Louisville coach Rick Pitino called a timeout to ice him,
Mason said he was just thinking about sending seniors Merritt and
Terry Sanders away winners in their final home game.

During the timeout, Crean never spoke about the free throw, only
about getting back on defense after the conversion to go for a
deflection without fouling.

Then, Mason stepped up to the line and thought about fulfilling
a childhood dream.

"I wanted to make a big play like you think about when you're
younger," Mason said. "You think, man, zero seconds left, going
to the free throw line, you know, big shot. You think about it all
the time."

The Golden Eagles (17-10, 8-8 Conference USA) also ended a
16-game winning streak by Louisville (19-8, 9-7) on Jan. 31 with a
77-70 victory at Freedom Hall.

It appeared as though the Cardinals had their revenge when Dean
hit two free throws to put Louisville up 80-78 with 12 seconds left
following a questionable whistle on Marquette point guard Travis
Diener.

On an inbounds play, Dean split two defenders, including Diener,
who was called for his fifth foul even though he didn't make a
move.

After a delay of several minutes while Crean and Pitino gathered
with officials Steve Welmer, Gerald Boudreaux and Rick Randall,
Dean hit both of his free throws.

Brandon Bell, who replaced Diener, missed a 3-pointer with 4
seconds left -- his first shot of the game -- but the ball went off a
Cardinals' player with 2.6 seconds remaining, setting up Mason's
game-winning play.

More than 30 minutes after the game, Mohammed was still in his
uniform while his teammates were dressed and ready to leave.

"I was just trying to challenge the shot," he said, shaking
his head. "I saw him open. I tried to get out and challenge him."

Mason finished with 14 points, as did Diener, the league's
leading scorer who was 3-of-14 from the floor and missed all six of
his second-half shots.

Steve Novak led the Golden Eagles with 20 points. His 3-pointer
sent the Golden Eagles on a 13-1 run that gave Marquette a 41-32
lead early on.

Francisco Garcia scored 23 for Louisville, which trailed 43-36
at the half. Dean added 16.

The Cardinals managed just five offensive rebounds all afternoon
and were outrebounded 30-22 by a team that has no inside game to
speak of.

"The reason we didn't win -- it's been our Achilles' heel all
year -- is rebounding," Pitino said. "You let them back in the
game with easy shots after playing good defense."

Louisville has lost six of its last seven to Marquette, which is
hoping for a good showing in the Conference USA tourney to avoid
having to go to the NIT a year after advancing to the Final Four.

"We've given ourselves a chance, a real chance," Crean said.
"And what we do with it next week is up to us. I don't think this
hurt us today."

Pitino doesn't figure the loss hurt his team, either.

"We're 19-8 right now, playing the eighth-toughest schedule in
the nation," he said. "So, I'm very pleased being 19-8, never
thought we would be."