Matt It may not have been pretty, but the Marquette Golden Eagles still found a way to come back and beat the South Florida Bulls, 59-58 Wednesday night in Tampa.
The Golden Eagles (15-9, 6-5) found themselves struggling to score and struggling to stop USF's offense. Down 44-28 in the second half, MU finished the game on a 31-14 run, just enough to put the Bulls away.
Jae Crowder led the team with 14 points, including four three pointers. He hit two clutch three-pointers in the final five minutes of the game. Jimmy Butler added 12 points along with 6 rebounds and 5 assists off the bench. Butler did not start the game due to a head injury in practice a few days earlier.
South Florida started out hot and led nearly the entire first half. The Bulls tickled the twine to the tune of 68 percent shooting overall and 57 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Up 7 at halftime, the Bulls came out raging in the first moments of the second half. Just two minutes after intermission, USF was up by 16, scoring nine points from their first four possessions.
However, Marquette wasn't going to give in that easy and started clawing back, point by point.
Joe Fulce started off the run by hitting a much needed three-pointer. Fulce came off the bench and scored 10 points, hitting two shots from beyond the arc.
A Dwight Buycks three-pointer at the 6:35 mark made it a one-possession game for the first time since the game was 9-7 in the first half. A few moments later a Chris Otule free throw tied the game.
Then, it was Jae Crowder's turn to do some damage.
Crowder hit one of his four three's with 4:26 left to give MU the lead for good. With a minute and a half to play it was Crowder again hitting another three right in front of the Golden Eagles' bench to make it a four-point game in their favor. The shot was reminiscent of Jimmy Butler's fade away against Syracuse at the Bradley Center, as Crowder took one jab step towards the hoop, then nailed the jumper from beyond the arc fading towards the sideline.
The Golden Eagles would hold onto the lead and win by one, but it wasn't easy. As usual, free throws troubled the team, missing their final seven free throws. Coach Buzz Williams said it came down to tough guys making tough shots.
"We just need to make those. There's no excuse for it," said Williams following the game.
"We got to start making those," added Butler. "We got ourselves some second chances. But free throws, everybody misses them, but we have to start making them."
For South Florida (8-17, 2-10), it summed up their season, losing another close game. Toarlyn Fitzpatrick had a double-double, scoring 16 and grabbing 13 rebounds, and leading scorer Augutus Gilchrist added 11 points.
South Florida Head Coach Stan Heath said it was tough to swallow because he thought his team played well.
"I thought it was one of our better offensive outputs," said Heath. "We controlled the tempo of the game. That was a high scoring team that we held way below their average."
Marquette will next head to the nation's capital to take on the Georgetown Hoyas. Tip time is set for noon central and can be seen nationally on ESPN.
A win is a win
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