NEW YORK--Sophomore guard Mike Marra put on a shooting clinic as the Louisville Cardinals blew out the Marquette Golden Eagles 81-56 Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament.
Marra, who entered the game making just 27 percent of his threes, finished with 22 points and hit 6-of-10 shots from beyond the arc to lead the Cardinals, who finished 13-of-31 from beyond the arc in the win.
"If you don't guard the ball, teams are going to shoot open shots," coach Buzz Williams said. "When you play major teams they're going to have guys who can make threes. We didn't guard the ball well tonight."
Early on it seemed the Golden Eagles had picked up right where they left off after last night's win over West Virginia, jumping out to an early 11-2 lead behind two Jae Crowder three-pointers.
But the Cardinals responded with a run of their own that put them up seven, highlighted by three three-pointers from Marra and two from Kyle Kuric, who finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Louisville led by as many as nine in the first half, but four late free throws from Junior Cadougan and Jamail Jones cut the lead to just five by intermission.
The Golden Eagles looked as though they had one more run left in them when a three-point play by Jimmy Butler brought Marquette within six at 42-36 early in the second half, but Louisville kept its foot on the pedal and closed the game with a 39-20 run to finish off the Golden Eagles.
Coach Rick Pitino praised his team for the effort they made passing the ball, as they assisted on 24 of 30 made baskets in the win.
"I think offensive assists have made our offense better," Pitino said. "These guys are learning and getting better and I think passing is the key. So good passing leads to good percentages."
Marquette, playing its third game in as many days in New York City, looked tired down the stretch, but Williams would not make the excuse that the Golden Eagles ran out of energy.
"Louisville was great. To say that the reason they beat us was because we had no legs I think is a soft answer," Williams said. "We haven't been soft since we've been here so I don't want to leave here with a soft response."
Despite Williams' insistence that fatigue had nothing to do with the poor showing, the similarities between tonight's game and last year's Big East Tournament are glaring.
After two wins in the 2010 Big East Tournament, Marquette hung with No. 22 Georgetown before being outscored by 20 in the second half in the semifinals. Tonight, Marquette was also outscored by 20 against a ranked team in its third game of the tournament.
Jimmy Butler finished his Big East career with 14 points and six rebounds, but was unable to shake Louisville's stifling defense much of the night. The Golden Eagles shot just 30 percent from the field as a team and were held to a season-low in points.
Darius Johnson-Odom was held in check with just 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting, while Jae Crowder cooled off after his hot start to finish with just 10 points. As a whole the Golden Eagles had just seven assists, four fast break points, and 18 points in the paint.
Still, Marquette has all but wrapped up a spot in the NCAA Tournament with its showing in New York City, getting to the all-important 20-win mark and taking down another RPI Top 25 team in West Virginia.
"I think we work hard and at the end of the day we get our named called on Sunday, and that's a dream everybody on my team has had since we were little," Butler said. "And it's a relief we won't have to worry about that too much longer."
With the win, the Cardinals will go on to play Notre Dame tomorrow night in the semifinals of the tournament. Earlier in the year the two teams battled into overtime, with the Fighting Irish coming out on top 89-79.
The winner of that game will then play the winner of Syracuse and Connecticut for the Big East Championship.
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