MU toughs out a 79-74 win vs West Virginia

2011 is less than a day old, but there's a good chance Jae Crowder put together the best performance he'll have all year. The junior forward scored a career-high 29 points and grabbed eight rebounds as the Golden Eagles defeated the West Virginia Mountaineers 79-74 to open its Big East schedule. MU teammate Darius Johnson-Odom added 21 pts in front of 15,575 at the Bradley Center.

Marquette (10-4, 1-0) began the game on a 9-0 run and held the Mountaineers without a point until the 16:07 mark. The Golden Eagles led by as many as 11 in the first half but West Virginia answered with a 14-4 run of their own late in the first half, trailing by only three at halftime.

The two teams went back and forth in the second half, with neither team leading by more than five points. Darius Johnson-Odom traded baskets with West Virginia late in the second half, reeling off 12 straight points on five makes over a four-minute stretch to keep Marquette in the game. Johnson-Odom made five of seven second half shots, helping Marquette shoot 64 percent in that stretch.

With 35 seconds left and West Virginia trailing 75-74, Crowder stole the ball from Casey Mitchell who then intentionally fouled Crowder, giving Marquette two free throws and the ball. Marquette would go on to score the game's next and last four points.

Jimmy Butler, who was held scoreless in the first half, scored 10 second half points, including three crucial free throws in the final minute to seal the victory for Marquette. The Golden Eagles handed out 22 assists on 30 made field goals as a team, led by Butler and Crowder. Johnson-Odom and Dwight Buycks also contributed with four helpers apiece. They also out-rebounded the Mountaineers 34-24, including 14 on the offensive end.

Crowder scored the first points of the game and never looked back, shooting 12-for-14 from the field, including a perfect 10-for-10 inside the arc. He was all over the court in his 39 minutes on the court, grabbing eight rebounds, handing out five assists, and grabbing four steals. It Crowder said his performance was what he envisioned himself doing when he made the jump to Division-I basketball.

"That's what the expectation was for me coming into the season," Crowder said. "It was very stressful for me at times but it also helped me to stay focused early."

With the win, Marquette moves to 1-0 in the Big East and 4-2 all-time in Big East conference openers. Head coach Buzz Williams was pleased with the win but knows there's still a long way to go.

"It was an 18-mile run and we just finished one," Williams said of winning the Big East opener. "We're thankful that we won the first one and we're glad it's noon and we can go to bed."

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