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Falling Fast

Milwaukee,Wi - Marquette's days of playing as a ranked team could be numbered.

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The No. 24 Golden Eagles look to rebound from their most recent loss in the hope of maintaining a spot in the Top 25 when they host Western Carolina on Friday night.

Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sportsbook.com have made the Marquette –17.5 point spread favorites for Wednesday’s game against the W Carolina. Current College Basketball Public Betting Information shows that 57% of more than 169 bets for this game have been placed on the Marquette –17.5.

Marquette could be on the verge of falling out of the poll after losing 80-68 to No. 16 Tennessee in Nashville on Tuesday. It was the Golden Eagles' first contest against a ranked opponent and their second loss on a neutral court after falling to unranked Dayton 89-75 on Nov. 29 at the Chicago Invitational.

While it's uncertain if even a convincing victory over Western Carolina (5-3) could keep the Golden Eagles as a ranked team, they'll certainly need to improve on their most recent performance.

Wesley Matthews had 30 points for Marquette, which was forced to use just eight players due to injuries they tried to overcome while playing with five players with at least three fouls midway through the second half. Starters Matthews, Jerel McNeal and Dwight Burke each fouled out as the Golden Eagles shot a season-low 37.5 percent and committed 16 turnovers.

While the teams traded the lead seven times with four ties over the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Vols' deeper bench ultimately was too much for Marquette to handle.

"Anytime we get in foul trouble, no matter who the player is, we're out of whack," first-year Marquette coach Buzz Williams said.

Matthews, averaging a team-leading 20.6 points per game, bounced back for a season high after combining for 21 in his previous two contests.

Lazar Hayward added 14 points and seven rebounds after posting double-digit rebounds in his two previous games. The 6-foot-6 junior is averaging 15.9 points and 10.2 boards per contest.

Marquette will face Western Carolina for the third time as it tries to extend its 19-game non-conference home winning streak dating to a 70-66 loss to then-No. 9 Wisconsin on Dec. 9, 2006.

The Golden Eagles won the previous two games, including a 75-64 win over the Catamounts on Nov. 14, 2004 in the teams' most recent meeting.

Western Carolina enters this contest coming off a 96-90 loss to Gardner-Webb on Wednesday. Jake Robinson scored 23 points, but the Catamounts shot 40.5 percent from the field while going 8-for-34 from 3-point range.

The junior forward is averaging a team-leading 15.5 points on the season and 20.0 in three games this month for Western Carolina, which had won four in a row prior to its most recent defeat.

Off to a strong start after finishing 10-21 in 2007-08, Western Carolina will face its second ranked opponent of the season since falling 81-55 to No. 2 Connecticut on Nov. 14.

The Catamounts are 0-14 versus Top 25 teams since the start of the 1996-97 season.

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Posted: 12/19/08 1:30 AM ET

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