MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Steve Novak already says Marquette deserves to
be in the NCAA tournament.
After two wins over two Top 25 opponents in three days, Novak
thinks the Golden Eagles should be ranked, too.
He scored 27 points, hit five 3-pointers and made two important
free throws to lead Marquette to an 84-82 upset of No. 9 Pittsburgh
on Saturday night.
"We've been getting better the whole year," Novak said. "I
think we're really maturing as a team."
But does it deserve a national ranking?
"I hope so," he said. "Winning these games are all we can do.
Hopefully we've done enough to impress the right people. If we
haven't, we'll just keep working and keep getting better."
"Two ranked teams going down just gives us a lot of
confidence," James said.
It was another dramatic victory for the Golden Eagles, who also
have wins over then-No. 2 Connecticut in their Big East debut on
Jan. 3 and No. 17 Georgetown on Thursday night.
The Golden Eagles also led No. 4 Villanova for 37 minutes on the
road and led late in the second half at Pittsburgh earlier this
year before falling 77-71.
Pittsburgh (20-4, 9-4) nearly came from behind again.
Carl Krauser finished with 18 points and scored five straight to
cut Marquette's lead to 78-77 with 3 minutes to go after the Golden
Eagles led by as many as 10.
Novak and Ronald Ramon, the Panthers' most accurate 3-point
shooter, exchanged 3s with 1:51 remaining. Marquette missed two
shots on its next possession, and Pittsburgh's Aaron Gray was
fouled with 24.7 seconds left.
The 64 percent free throw shooter missed both attempts to tie,
and the Panthers were forced to foul Novak, who is 66-for-67 from
the line this season.
"[If] we make a free throw, they miss a free throw, we're very
happy," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said.
Novak didn't and gave Marquette an 83-80 lead with 11.2 left.
"He's missed one free throw in 14 months," Marquette coach Tom
Crean said. "We like to have the ball in his hands."
Ramon got a good look at the basket, but missed a 3 and Gray's
rebound and putback cut it to 83-82 with 0.2 seconds remaining.
Marquette's Joe Chapman hit a free throw for the final margin.
Pittsburgh never found a rhythm in trying to get physical with
Marquette in front of 19,007, the largest crowd ever to see a
college game in Wisconsin.
Marquette, lowly regarded to start the season, has adapted to
the physical style of the Big East, and this game was no different.
In one sequence, James fouled Ramon hard, hooking him around the
head with his arm, and Gray drew a technical foul moments later
when he threw an elbow before an inbounds play.
Gray, who had 20 rebounds against Marquette in the first game,
picked up his fourth foul with 7:54 left and finished with 10
points and seven rebounds.
Marquette had pushed the lead to 10 when Dan Fitzgerald tipped
in a miss by Novak and hit a 3-pointer of his own on the ensuing
possession to make it 68-58 with 9:46 remaining.
But most of the highlights have been by the 6-foot-11 Novak, who
set the single season mark for 3-pointers at Marquette on Thursday
The senior sharpshooter has 57 3s in Big East play with three
conference games left, six behind the record of 63 held by
Connecticut's Ray Allen in 1995-96.