Lazar Hayward took a pass on the left wing, sweat dripping off of his headband at Fifth-Third Arena. A pump fake got Rashad Bishop in the air, and with one step right Hayward swished a three-pointer.
Sounds like a typical play for Marquette’s MVP, but the situation was far from typical.
Hayward was 1-10 before that shot, and was struggling to find his game. Hayward’s triple tied the game at 67 with 28 seconds left, and all of a sudden, Marquette was right back into the game.
“When I pump faked, I looked right at him,” Hayward said. “My initial thought was to go right into him, but he jumped and I could square up. It felt real good, for me personally, but more for my team.”
After forcing overtime, Hayward received a pass underneath from Jimmy Butler, went up strong with his right hand, and gave Marquette an early lead in OT.
Two minutes later, Hayward slipped off of a screen, got a pass from Maurice Acker and hit a three while falling into the Marquette bench. Hayward looked right as his teammates and yelled, “Let’s go!”
The senior leader was back at the perfect time.
“It was a big shot by a big time player, at a big time,” head coach Buzz Williams said. “Not just in the game, but in our Big East season.”
Hayward finished the final 5:26 with eight points, four rebounds and an assist while hitting his last three shots.
“He means everything to our team,” Williams said. “Everyone has tremendous faith in him.”
The Buffalo, N.Y. native finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds in 37 minutes.
“Even though I wasn’t hitting my shots,” Hayward said, “I thought I did a better job of helping my team even though my shot was off.”
Senior leadership is much more than just production. Hayward talked about his demeanor on and off the court, especially when he’s struggling.
“I can’t let my actions and body language show,” Hayward said. “They have to be able to look at me and get energy from me. I know some games are going to be like that, so I know I have to play defense, rebound and get assists.”
Coach Williams said that these last four games are “Lazar’s games.” Going into the final stretch, it looks like he got a great start.