CLEVELAND, OHIO--Darius Johnson-Odom hit a clutch three-pointer with 26 seconds remaining leading Marquette a 66-62 win over Syracuse Sunday night in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
Johnson-Odom finished with a team-high 17 points to help Marquette to its first Sweet 16 since 2003, when Dwyane Wade led the Golden Eagles to the Final Four.
In the early going it was Syracuse that led the charge, showing its brass with an array of threes, fast break points, and inside moves to jump out to a 19-9 lead through the game's first 10 minutes.
For as good as Marquette was in its Jan. 29 win over Syracuse, shooting 52 percent from the field and making 24 free throws, it struggled to find any success against the Orange's 2-3 zone, missing 11 of its first 15 shots to open the game.
But the Golden Eagles clamped down on defense just like their opponent, forcing Syracuse into 10 first half turnovers that resulted in 13 points, keeping them close.
Their stellar defensive play, which carried over from Friday night's win against Xavier, helped on the offensive end as well, as Marquette finished the half with an 11-2 run, leading 34-31 at intermission.
The second half was a chess match on both ends of the floor. Outside of a five-point Syracuse lead, which lasted all of 35-seconds, neither team led by more than three points in the second half until two Junior Cadougan free throws with 16 seconds left.
Syracuse suffered a massive blow when guard Brandon Triche was injured driving to the basket with 15:36 to go in the second half. He suffered a bruised tailbone on the play and did not return. He finished with 8 points, all coming early in the first half, and four turnovers.
The Orange would have liked to have had Triche in the game with 51 seconds to play, when freshmen Dion Waiters, Triche's back-up, threw an errant pass to Scoop Jardine which caused him to step on the half court line for Syracuse's eighteenth turnover of the night, a season-high.
"It was just miscommunication," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "We were looking for Kris [Joseph] first, and he was covered, and Scoop [Jardine] was coming back, and I think he just needed to wait a second for him to get clear. It's not just one guy, it's one play."
25 seconds after the miscue, the stage belonged to Johnson-Odom, who once again came through in the clutch with the biggest shot of his two-year Marquette career.
"We were getting a lot of ball movement," Johnson-Odom said. "The ball wasn't sticking in anyone's hands. We kept moving it, trying to penetrate, and trying to attack. [Jimmy] just found the open man and luckily I knocked the shot down."
Jae Crowder, who manned up in a big way against a much taller Syracuse front court, iced the game with two free throws with 10 seconds to go. Crowder and the Marquette bigs held Rick Jackson to just seven points and four rebounds, despite the forward playing the entire game. Marquette outrebounded Syracuse 30-24 and matched the Orange with 28 points in the paint.
After the game, Buzz Williams ran over to the Marquette section and embraced his wife, both with tears in their eyes, making for a scene right out of a movie.
Williams, however, said the display of emotion was not about him.
"The emotional level of our fans and of our administration and our Board of Trustees, all of the people that were here, they care just as much as I do," Williams said. "It just so happens I get to speak on their behalf. It's bout all of those people, just as much as it is about our players."
With the win the Golden Eagles will face the second-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels, a team that squeaked by the No. 7 Washington Huskies earlier in the day, 86-83.
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