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Marquette headed to Elite 8 with 71-61 win over Miami

WASHINGTON DC - MARCH 28:  Jamil Wils#0 Trent Lockett #22 Marquette Golden Eagles react after play against Miami (Fl)

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 28: Jamil Wilson #0 and Trent Lockett #22 of the Marquette Golden Eagles react after a play against the Miami (Fl) Hurricanes during the East Regional Round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Verizon Center on March 28, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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Updated: March 29, 2013 12:17AM

WASHINGTON — It’s always good to play your best in March. And Marquette certainly is doing that.

After winning two games by a combined three points last week, the third-seeded Golden Eagles jumped on second-seeded Miami early and often Thursday, posting a 71-61 victory that put them in the Elite Eight. They’ll play top-seeded Indiana or fourth-seeded Syracuse in the East Regional final Saturday.

Look for Marquette, which was upset about being ranked 16th among the Sweet 16 by, to be edgy. Again.

‘‘We’ll be dead-last on Saturday; we’ll be [picked] eighth out of eight,’’ coach Buzz Williams said. ‘‘Despite what’s being written because of the scores, I think we’re playing pretty good. To get to this point, you have to play well.’’

The Golden Eagles don’t deny that being disrespected helps them bring their ‘‘A’’ game.

‘‘We’re used to people not giving us credit,’’ said guard Vander Blue, who scored 14 points against the Hurricanes. ‘‘Nobody expected us to be an Elite Eight team. That fuels our fire.

‘‘We might not have the name of North Carolina or Syracuse or Georgetown, but when we step between those lines, we feel like we can take on anybody. I feel like [everybody] should keep doubting us. Obviously, it’s helping us.’’

Marquette certainly was an afterthought at the Verizon Center. Indiana was among the best teams in the country all season. Syracuse caught fire late. And Miami, the so-called ‘‘fifth No. 1 seed,’’ was considered strong enough to weather a knee injury to center Reggie Johnson.

The Golden Eagles (26-8) blitzed the Hurricanes (29-7) at both ends, opening a 29-16 lead. Marquette outrebounded Miami 20-18 in the first 20 minutes and held it to 21 percent shooting, including 1-for-11 from three-point range.

The Golden Eagles grabbed the game by the throat early in the second half, opening leads of 41-23 with 15 minutes left and 51-30 lead with 10 minutes left. The Hurricanes tried to put on some heat but never got close.

Marquette, one of only four schools to reach the Sweet 16 in each of the last three seasons, is in the Elite Eight for the first time since superstar Dwyane Wade and coach Tom Crean led it there in 2003.

‘‘We just didn’t have it tonight,’’ Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. ‘‘We didn’t have the juice you need to play great basketball.’’

Beyond Johnson’s knee injury, Durand Scott (elbow in mouth) and Raphael Akpejiori (hand) were injured during practice this week. And ‘‘Shane Larkin ended up throwing up all night [Wednesday],’’ Larranaga said. ‘‘This is fact. It’s not fiction; it’s not an excuse. We didn’t prepare for this game. And it was really the first time all season that we didn’t have one guy get a hot hand.’’

Illinois fans, who had their hearts broken late against the Hurricanes last week, won’t want to hear that stuff. But Marquette isn’t merely playing well; it’s enjoying another important ingredient of March Madness.

Good timing.

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