Crowder, Johnson-Odom propel Marquette
Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder came up with big shots every time the Cougars threatened, and the Golden Eagles withstood another furious second-half rally by BYU for an 88-68 victory in the NCAA tournament Thursday. Crowder finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds, while Johnson-Odom scored 12 of his 20 points in the second half.
“We knew they were going to come out with a run. They have fight in them like any team in the NCAA tournament, and they did not want to go home,” Crowder said. “We had a lot of poise. We just wanted to overcome it, and I think we did that.”
Brandon Davies had 19 points and 12 rebounds for the 14th-seeded Cougars (26-9), who looked for a brief while as if they might have a chance to top their historic comeback against Iona in the First Four on Tuesday night. But a year after advancing to the regional finals, the Cougars will have to settle for a place in the history books.
Noah Hartsock added 15 points for the Cougars despite playing only 10 minutes in the first half after picking up his third foul.
“I don’t think they played any harder than we did. I don’t think they fought any harder than we did,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “They were just a little better.”
The Golden Eagles (26-7) now play sixth-seeded Murray State in the third round Saturday. The Racers beat 11th-seeded Colorado State, 58-41, earlier Thursday.
Marquette is a No. 3 seed for the first time since 2003, back when Dwyane Wade led the Golden Eagles all the way to the Final Four in New Orleans. Marquette is hoping to make its way to the Big Easy again this year, but the Golden Eagles can’t afford little lapses like the ones they had against BYU.
After leading by as many as 19 in the first half, Marquette’s lead was pared to single digits three times by the scrappy Cougars.
“Everyone was believing the whole time that we could come back,” Craig Cusick said.
Davies, who missed the NCAA tournament last year after being booted from the team for an honor code violation, opened the second half with three straight buckets to get BYU within 10. He drew a charge when he got flattened by Todd Mayo, and Cusick drilled a three-pointer at the opposite end of the floor to cut the lead to 50-43. It was the first time BYU was within single digits since 12:22 left in the first half.
Marquette didn’t make its first field goal of the second half until the 15:41 mark, a short jumper by Jamil Wilson, and the crisp passing and efficient offense from the first half were nowhere to be found.
But what the Golden Eagles lacked in style in the second half, they made up for with brute strength, overpowering the smaller Cougars. Johnson-Odom knocked down a three after the Golden Eagles outmuscled BYU for back-to-back offensive rebounds, and Davante Gardner followed with a finish down low that drew a foul.
Gardner converted the three-point play, and Marquette found itself back up 69-52 with 10:56 left. BYU never got within single digits again.
“I’m not a home run coach. I didn’t hire home run assistant coaches,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “We just want to be a good pitch team. And I think for the most part, we were able to throw good pitches today.”
Four Marquette players scored in double figures, and the Golden Eagles had a 48-34 rebounding edge. Marquette also made nine three-pointers, six in the first half.