Golden Eagles rally past South Florida
Jae Crowder made two big 3-pointers down the stretch and the Golden Eagles overcame cold shooting against South Florida on Wednesday night to rally for a 59-58 victory that had coach Buzz Williams searching for words to describe it.
“I’m not sure there’s an appropriate way. … I don’t think there’s words to justify the ebb and flow of that game,” Williams said following a wild finish that saw his team hold on despite missing seven straight free throws in the final 1:03.
“I’m tremendously proud of our players’ energy and effort and execution in the second half. But for it to play out the way that it did, relative to the result from our perspective, I don’t know if there’s any philosophical way to describe it. South Florida easily could have won. If you look at the numbers statistically, you could argue that they should have won. I’ll just leave it at that.”
Crowder finished a 26-9 run with a long 3-pointer that gave the Golden Eagles (15-9, 6-5 Big East) their first lead since the opening minutes of the game, then made another to make it 59-55 with 1:28 remaining.
Marquette rallied despite shooting 39 percent from the field but nearly let the game slip away at the end when Chris Otule, Dwight Buycks and Darius Johnson-Odom went to the foul to the foul line and failed to put it away.
The Golden Eagles finished 7 of 19 from the line.
“If we make five out of those seven, then we don’t have the end that we have. But I do think that the end that we have will (help us) grow,” Williams said. “So is that wrong or right? I don’t know, but that’s what I believe.”
Crowder scored 14 points and Jimmy Butler added 12. Toarlyn Fitzpatrick led South Florida (8-17, 2-10) with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Marquette, coming off three losses in four games to ranked opponents, was held to a season-low point total. The Big East’s top scoring team missed 13 of its first 17 shots and trailed by as many as 11 in the opening half.
USF shot 68.4 percent in taking a 31-24 halftime lead. The Bulls built the advantage to 44-28 before being outscored 31-14 over the final 14 minutes—a stretch in which Marquette used its trapping full-court press to speed up the game and force turnover after turnover while limiting USF to just four field goals—none in the final three minutes.
“They laid a trap for us, and we fell into it,” South Florida coach Stan Heath said. “They wanted to speed us up and get us out of control, and we helped them.”
Marquette prevailed despite getting just seven points from Johnson-Odom on 2-of-6 shooting. The Golden Eagles’ leading scorer also struggled from the foul line, missing four straight free throws in the final 17.1 seconds to keep South Florida’s hopes alive.
Fitzpatrick went to the foul line with 1.1 seconds to go, hoping to make the first and intentionally miss the second to give USF a chance to force overtime. The 6-foot-8 sophomore wound up making both, banking in the second shot instead of clanking it off the rim.
“They wanted it a little bit more than we did at the end, and they started turning us over and turning up the pressure. That’s why we’re sitting here with our heads down,” Fitzpatrick said.
“When you’re up 16,” USF guard Anthony Crater added, “there’s no way you’re supposed to let a team come back and win.”
Augustus Gilchrist finished with 11 points for South Florida, which shot 38.5 percent in the second half.
Crowder was 5 of 6 from the field, including 4 for 5 on 3-point attempts. Joseph Fulce came off the bench to score 10 points for Marquette.