Marquette leaves Alaska with Shootout title

Posted: Monday, November 26, 2001

ANCHORAGE -- The Marquette Golden Eagles were all business last week during their seven-day adventure in the 49th state.

There were no trips to see glaciers, no heli-skiing atop pure powder snow. All the guys could manage were a few snapshots of the Chugach Mountains from the team bus.

They did bring home one souvenir, however -- the gold trophy pan awarded to the champion of the Great Alaska Shootout.

Marquette became just the third school in the Shootout's 24-year history to pull off three consecutive upsets to win the title. Only Southwestern Louisiana, in 1981, and New Mexico State, in 1992, have accomplished the same.

At the Sullivan Arena, Marquette defeated Tennessee on Wednesday, 85-74; 20th-ranked Indiana on Friday, 50-49; and Gonzaga on Saturday, 72-63, to become just the third private school to win the Shootout.

Sophomore Dwyane Wade was named the most outstanding player after scoring a tournament-best 64 points for an average of 21.3 a game. He also averaged 7.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists.

But Marquette (5-0) did not race to an unbeaten record, and possibly a Top 25 ranking when the Associated Press poll comes out today, on Wade's play alone.

"It was a team effort," Wade said. "No one man stood above the next. We all played together."

Senior point guard Cordell Henry shut down Gonzaga's leading scorer, Dan Dickau. Senior forward Olouma Nnamaka hit shots under duress while containing Indiana star forward Jared Jeffries.

"That was a big-time defensive effort by those two," Marquette coach Tom Crean said.

Senior forward Jon Harris was the spiritual and vocal leader as well as the muscle behind Marquette's interior defense. Hobbling on a bad ankle, Odartey Blankson played through pain.

Most important, Marquette had a bench it could count on. Senior David Diggs was the player of the game in the title bout for hitting all five of his three-point attempts. Even Wade has never had that flawless statistic.

Harris has a new name for Diggs: Flame.

"They like to call people that for shooting hot," said Diggs, bashfully.

Reserve Travis Diener filled in admirably for Henry at point guard and Wade at shooting guard. Scott Merritt gave the kind of minutes inside that allowed Marquette to stay fresh with a 10-man rotation, which was pivotal during this grueling stretch of travel and three games in four days.

Defensively, Marquette was back to its old self, allowing an average of just 62 points. MU also had the best three-point field-goal percentage defense of the tournament and averaged 7.3 steals a game.

"All three games, their defense got better and better as they went along," said Gonzaga coach Mark Few.

Marquette won the rebound war, too, the first time that's happened to Gonzaga, and the Zags have already played Final Four favorite Illinois.

"They were really strong," said Gonzaga forward Ronny Turiaf. "They push, push, push and the refs don't say anything."

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