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MARQUETTE One loss motivates freshman



Published: Fri, April 4, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Steve Novak's high school career ended on a sour note.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Steve Novak has a long memory to go with his uncanny 3-point accuracy.

The star shooter of this year's NCAA tournament is driven by a poor performance he had in his final high school game more than a year ago.

Novak averaged 21 points as a senior at Brown Deer High School, a short car ride from the Marquette campus he now calls home.

But he scored just four points in a state semifinal loss last March, denying him the chance at a prep championship.

"I wouldn't say I put it behind me. I definitely used that game as motivation for the summer and all my off-season workouts," Marquette's sensational sixth man said.

"There's no question I didn't play very well and our team lost. We had a great run up to then. It just shows when things are going real well, you still have to keep on working hard."

Painful lessons

Now that he's starring in Marquette's marvelous postseason run, Novak hasn't forgotten the painful lessons of that loss to Madison Edgewood.

"It's just like when I was in high school on a big winning streak. I wouldn't say we got satisfied, but we got beat," Novak said. "We know we can't do that now. We just have to stay focused.

"We've gone on a nice run here and we just have to finish the job."

The Golden Eagles play Kansas in the national semifinals Saturday at the Superdome in New Orleans.

And a big reason they've gotten this far is Novak, Marquette's 6-foot-10 freshman who drew the ire of his teammates during the regular season by passing up open outside shots.

On fire

With their prodding fresh in his mind -- along with his disappointing high school finale -- Novak has gone 14-for-20 from behind the 3-point line during the NCAA tournament, despite making only 21-of-49 3s in the team's first 20 games.

"We would get mad at him," point guard Travis Diener said. "We'd be upset with him because he wouldn't shoot. Now he's finally putting up shots and it's paying off."

Novak's accuracy from the perimeter is a major reason the Golden Eagles are headed to their first Final Four since 1977, when the Al McGuire-coached squad won the national championship.

Since making five 3-pointers at DePaul on Feb. 12, Novak has made 34-of-55 3-pointers in 12 games, an incredible .618 clip.

"I don't know what his problem was at the start," Diener said half-jokingly. "When you can shoot like that, I don't know why he was hesitant in the first place. Now, we're just happy that he's firing them up there."

Novak made two 3-pointers in Marquette's 72-68 victory over Holy Cross in the first round and added four against Missouri, three of them in overtime as Marquette prevailed 101-92.

He added three more in the Golden Eagles' 77-74 victory over second-seeded Pittsburgh and hit five 3-pointers in Marquette's stunning 83-69 rout of top-seeded and top-ranked Kentucky.




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