LOUISVILLE—Trailing 46-41 with 7:43 remaining in the game, the pro-Murray State crowd getting into the game, the Golden Eagles had their backs against the wall once again.
But with Buzz Williams' timeout at the 7:35 mark the mood in the Marquette huddle remained positive. You see, the Golden Eagles have been in this spot before. Trailing to Louisville, Cincinnati, at Villanova. The Golden Eagles knew how to maintain their composure.
"We've been in worse positions before," said sophomore guard Vander Blue. "20-2, 18-4, I mean multiple games we have been down but we just want to stick to what we do. We feel like if we stick with what we do it's eventually going to come out and get the job done."
"Nobody panicked. We made sure we stuck to our roots and didn't get out of what we do. We rode our two big horses and got the job done."
MU did indeed stick to their roots and answered Murray State's 12-3 run with a 14-2 run of their own to grab a commanding lead, 55-48, with just over three minutes to play.
Todd Mayo started the run with two free throws and after a missed jumper from Isaiah Canaan, Jae Crowder nailed a jumper to bring the Golden Eagles within one.
Davante Gardner came in and scored six straight Marquette points and MU lead 51-48. Jae Crowder then took a charge on Racer guard Jewuan Long and came down the court and nailed his only three pointer of the game to put MU up by six. After a few turnovers from each team Crowder sank a free throw to give MU a seven-point advantage.
It was the aggressive play of Crowder and Davante Garnder late in the game that really gave MU an advantage. MU guard Darius Johnson-Odom commended Gardner on his returning from injury.
"I think he finally understood why we really needed him (back from injury)," said Johnson-Odom. "You've got to give him hands up for even trying to get back with the injury he had. I'm just glad he was able to play."
After struggling in the first half, Jae Crowder was strong in the second for the Golden Eagles. Crowder put up his second-straight double double, with 17 points and 13 rebounds. For good measure he added two assists, three steals and two blocks in the victory.
Darius Johnson-Odom added 17 points of his own and was the only other Marquette player in double figures. Both he and Crowder struggled from the perimeter against the Racers, combining to shoot 2-11 from distance.
Todd Mayo and Junior Cadougan both were crucial in the MU victory, providing key buckets when the others were struggling. Each player finished with eight points. Cadougan added four assists (to just one turnover) and Mayo pulled down six rebounds.
"Todd did a great job on defense and offense," said Johnson-Odom of his fellow guards. "Junior, he became and elite player today."
The first half was a seesaw battle between the Racers and Golden Eagles, where the score was tied seven times and the lead changed hands on five different occasions.
Each team played intense, physical defense that made it difficult for the opposition to score. Marquette shot just 34.4 percent from the field and 18 percent from downtown. Murray State wasn't much better at 37.9 and 18.2 percent respectively.
Both teams were fairly sloppy with the ball as Murray State committed eight turnovers and Marquette committed six of their own.
Isaiah Canaan led Murray State in scoring with 16 points but struggled mightily with the Golden Eagle defense, shooting 4-of-17 from the field. Jewuan Long also finished in double figures with 12.
Marquette awaits the winner of Florida-Norfolk State, whom they will play in the Sweet 16 in Phoenix on Thursday night.
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