Dec. 19, 2008
MILWAUKEE, WI (AP) - Lazar Hayward scored a career-high 27 points as No. 24 Marquette ran away to a 94-77 victory over Western Carolina on Friday night.
Hayward provided the fireworks in a decisive 12-4 Marquette run midway through the first half, powering the Golden Eagles (9-2) to a 20-point lead and quickly putting the game out of reach for the Catamounts (5-4).
Jerel McNeal scored 19 and Wesley Matthews added 18 for Marquette, which made a strong recovery from its loss at Tennessee on Tuesday night.
But Friday's victory, which came in front of a sparse crowd after a winter storm dumped 10-plus inches of snow on the Milwaukee area, might not be enough to keep the Golden Eagles from falling out of the Top 25 next week.
Brandon Giles scored 17 to lead Western Carolina, which has lost two straight.
Hayward played a starring role, showing his versatility in Marquette's decisive first-half run. With the Golden Eagles already leading 19-7, Matthews stole the ball and passed it ahead to Hayward, who scored a layup in traffic. Showing decent outside touch for a big man, Hayward then hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Then Hayward leaped to block a layup attempt by Western Carolina's Kendall Russell and hit two free throws after being fouled on the other end to put Marquette up 26-7.
After a basket by Western Carolina's Harouna Mutombo, Hayward hit another 3-pointer to put the Golden Eagles up by 20 points with 6:45 left in the first half. Then Hayward provided the assist as Patrick Hazel scored on Marquette's next possession.
Hayward, a junior forward who leads the team in rebounding but often takes a back seat to the Golden Eagles' senior guards when it comes to scoring, is coming off big games in Marquette's recent victories over in-state rival Wisconsin and Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne.
Hayward also had 14 points and seven rebounds in the loss at Tennessee.