Led by Crowder's 25, Marquette holds off BYU 88-68

NANCY ARMOUR AP National Writer Published:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Marquette was simply too big and too strong for BYU to overcome.

Jae Crowder finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds, Darius Johnson-Odom had 12 of his 20 points in the second half and Marquette withstood another furious BYU rally for an 88-68 victory in the NCAA tournament Thursday.

The Golden Eagles (26-7) now play sixth-seeded Murray State in the third round Saturday. The Racers beat 11th-seeded Colorado State 58-41 earlier Thursday.

Brandon Davies had 19 points and 12 rebounds for the 14th-seeded Cougars (26-9), who looked for a brief while as if they might have a chance to top their historic comeback against Iona in the First Four on Tuesday night. But a year after advancing to the regional finals, the Cougars will have to settle for a place in the history books.

Noah Hartsock added 15 for the Cougars despite playing only 10 minutes in the first half after picking up his third foul.

Marquette is a No. 3 seed for the first time since 2003, back when a guy named Dwyane Wade led the Golden Eagles all the way to the Final Four in New Orleans. Marquette is hoping to make its way to the Big Easy again this year, but the Golden Eagles can't afford little lapses like the ones they had against BYU.

After leading by as many as 19 in the first half, Marquette's lead was pared to single digits by the scrappy Cougars.

Davies, who missed the NCAA tournament last year after being booted from the team for an honor code violation, opened the second half with three straight buckets to pull BYU within 50-40. He drew a charge when he got flattened by Todd Mayo, and Craig Cusick drilled a 3-pointer at the opposite end of the floor to get the Cougars within double digits for the first time since 15:59 left in the first half.

Marquette didn't make its first field goal of the second half until 15:41 left, a short jumper by Jamil Wilson, and the crisp passing and efficient offense from the first half were nowhere to be found.

But what the Golden Eagles lacked in style in the second half, they made up for with brute strength, overpowering the smaller Cougars. Johnson-Odom knocked down a 3 after the Golden Eagles outmuscled BYU for back-to-back offensive rebounds, and Davante Gardner followed with a finish down low that drew a foul. Gardner converted the three-point play, and Marquette found itself back up 69-52 with 10:56 left.

BYU made several more runs at the Golden Eagles but never could get back within single digits again.

Four Marquette players finished in double figures, and the Golden Eagles had a 48-34 rebounding edge.

This was probably never going to be a fair fight, not with the Cougars only 36 hours removed from the biggest comeback in NCAA tournament history. BYU beat Iona 78-72 in the First Four on Tuesday night after erasing a 25-point, first-half deficit. The Cougars then drove the 150 miles from Dayton, Ohio, arriving in the wee hours Wednesday.

For much of the first half, the Cougars looked spent, falling behind 42-23 with 5:13 left. Granted, Crowder didn't help. The burly forward personally outscored BYU 9-5 in the first five-plus minutes of the game, and finished the first half with 17 points, on 7-of-14 shooting, 10 rebounds and two assists. He hit from inside, he scored from outside -- even his mistakes were good.

A 3-point attempt with about 90 seconds left in the first half hit the back of the rim and looked as if it was going to carom off. But no. It rolled back and dropped through the net, giving Marquette a 47-31 lead.

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