MU in NYC at the Big East Semis

It was just a Big East tournament quarterfinal game, but Marquette's victory over Villanova on Thursday felt a lot more significant.

The Golden Eagles had some payback to earn against the Wildcats, which knocked them out at the buzzer in the same round a year ago and had a pair of two-point wins over Marquette this season. So it was sweet revenge that this time the Golden Eagles made the plays down the stretch to knock off the Wildcats 80-76 and advance to a semifinal meeting with Georgetown.
   "In the last calendar year we've played (Villanova) three times, and all three times total it's been a total of five points. And since I've been at Marquette, we've played (Villanova) six times. ... That's a lot of experience of getting your tail whipped," coach Buzz Williams said after the win.
   Of course, the game was close. Marquette has now played 20 Big East games, 13 of which have been decided by four points or fewer. Seven out of the last eight close games, the Golden Eagles have come out a winner, a trait that will help this team in an NCAA Tournament it is now a safe bet to reach.
   MARQUETTE 80, VILLANOVA 76: Darius Johnson-Odom's 24 points and key plays from Lazar Hayward and David Cubillan down the stretch gave the Golden Eagles the four-point victory and a berth in the Big East tournament semifinals. Hayward went 4-for-4 at the line, with all four coming in the final 32 seconds.

   --If there was any doubt that Marquette was going to the NCAA Tournament, that was likely dispelled by the Golden Eagles' victory over St. John's in the Big East tournament on Wednesday.
   The 57-55 win came down to the wire, as every Golden Eagles game does. Marquette turned the ball over more often than St. John's, got outrebounded by 13 and had fewer fast-break points, points off turnovers, points in the paint, second-chance points and bench scoring.
   What it did well, however, was shoot 3-pointers. Marquette went 10-for-18 from beyond the arc, with Lazar Hayward going 4-for-6, David Cubillan 3-for-4 and Maurice Acker 2-for-3.
   --It was fitting that the Golden Eagles ended the regular season by taking their opponent to overtime but surprising because Marquette wound up losing the game.
   Four of the final five Marquette games heading into this week's Big East tournament went to at least one overtime. Of its 13 other Big East games, two were decided by one point, three by two points, two by three points and one by five. Only five games in its entire 18-game Big East schedule were decided by more than two possessions.
   If that leaves the impression that the Golden Eagles are talented enough to play with anyone but not good enough to put anyone away, well ... that's pretty close to the truth.
   Marquette is definitely dangerous. It has a big-time scorer in Lazar Hayward and one of the league's most underrated players in Jimmy Butler. It has a ballhandler, Maurice Acker, who has the size of a ballboy but the skill to run the offense without ever turning it over, and streaky but dangerous offensive threats Darius Johnson-Odom and David Cubillan.
   There's also a lot it doesn't have. For example, a bench. Most teams would redshirt a prized freshman with an Achilles injured in the fall, but coach Buzz Williams has brought Junior Cadougan back because he has rehabbed much sooner than anyone expected, and Williams needs the bodies. The Golden Eagles don't even have enough healthy players to scrimmage most of the time, forward Joseph Fulce being their most capable reserve.
   That means the starters play big minutes and fouls are a big problem. When Hayward or Butler picks up a couple early, they usually sit for the rest of the half, and when that happens the offense really struggles. If the shooters aren't hot, the Golden Eagles can't do enough damage to be dangerous.
   And yet, regardless of that, this team always seems to hang around. It doesn't give up until the final whistle, which has served it well all season. But it also gives no reason for opponents to give up, either -- it has shown the ability to both give and receive significant damage late in games.
   --Marquette had a couple of players honored on the All-Big East teams. Lazar Hayward made the All-Big East second team, while Jimmy Butler got an honorable mention.
   --The Golden Eagles have surprised for two consecutive years under coach Buzz Williams, but there's one thing he still doesn't have a handle on. Saturday's loss to Notre Dame dropped the team to 0-2 on Senior Day under his direction.
   ON THE SPOT: Marquette blew a seven-point lead in the final 90 seconds of the loss to Notre Dame, then had to scramble to hold off St. John's. Those are just two more signs that the game is never over until the final horn when Marquette is involved, whether the team is ahead or behind.
   QUOTE TO NOTE: "I just told them I think it was God's way of showing us one more time before we left the Bradley Center that if we're not going to be exactly who we have to be on both ends of the floor, then we get beat. It doesn't matter who we play, where we play, what time we play -- if we're not us, we will lose. And if we are us, then I like our chances." -- Marquette coach Buzz Williams, in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, on what he took from the loss to Notre Dame.

   SEASON RECAP: Marquette stomped Louisville before falling to Notre Dame at home to end the regular season. It finished tied with the Cardinals at 11-7 in the Big East and had the tiebreaker edge to earn the fifth seed in this week's Big East tournament.
   PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Lazar Hayward, G/F Jimmy Butler, G Darius Johnson-Odom, G David Cubillan, G Maurice Acker. Key Subs -- F Joseph Fulce, G Dwight Buycks, G Junior Cadougan, F Erik Williams.
   Marquette 84, Seton Hall 83 (OT)
   Marquette 69, Louisville 48
   Notre Dame 63, Marquette 60 (OT)
   Marquette 57, St. John's 55 (Big East tournament second round)
   Marquette 80, Villanova 76 (Big East tournament quarterfinals)
   vs. Georgetown, Friday, March 12 (Big East tournament semifinals)
   POSTSEASON OUTLOOK: It's all about the seed now for the Golden Eagles. Marquette is a lock for the NCAA Tournament and now is looking to stay out of an 8-9 game and give itself a better chance for an extended run.
   --Darius Johnson-Odom picked a great time to have the best game of his college career. He scored a career-high 24 points and made five 3-pointers in the victory over Villanova.
   --Jimmy Butler was limited to 22 minutes because of foul trouble against St. John's, but coach Buzz Williams made sure he got his work in against Villanova. Butler played all 40 minutes and had 14 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals.
   --Lazar Hayward had 20 points Thursday for his second game in a row at the Big East tournament. He went 7-for-11 from the field and 4-for-4 at the line, including a pair of huge free throws in the final seconds.


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