NCAA Division I Sports
NCAA Division I Sports
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Another trip to the Sun Dome, another down-to-the-wire finish between the Marquette Golden Eagles and South Florida Bulls.
Did anyone really expect anything else?
Despite going 0 for 7 from the free throw line in the final 1 minute 3 seconds, MU kept itself in the lead by getting the defensive stops it needed and eventually hung on to outlast South Florida, 59-58, Wednesday night in a game neither team seemed to want to win.
The game came down to the Golden Eagles missing a pair of free throws they wanted to make and the Bulls making a free throw they wanted to miss, all in the final 1.8 seconds.
Occurring in the same building that Jerel McNeal's buzzer-beating layup gave MU a dramatic win in 2007 and point-blank misses by Wesley Matthews and Lazar Hayward at the buzzer in 2009 halted the Golden Eagles' 9-0 conference start, this was par for the course.
“I don't know if I have the words to justify the ebb and flow of that game,” said coach Buzz Williams. “For it to have played out the way that it did relative to the result, I don't know that there's any philosophical way to describe it.
”South Florida could have easily won, and if you look at the numbers statistically, you could argue they should have won.“
The final few minutes were wild.
After trailing by as many as 16 points early in the second half, MU (15-9, 6-5 Big East) clawed its way back into the game with an effective press and stifling half-court defense and then finally got in front of South Florida (8-17, 2-10) on a three-pointer from Jae Crowder with 4:23 left that made it 54-53.
The Bulls jumped back in front, 55-54, shortly thereafter, but a drive by Butler and Crowder's fourth three-pointer of the game, a fallaway from the left wing with a defender closing, sandwiched around a Bulls miss stretched the Golden Eagles' lead to 59-55 with 1:26 left.
“I knew the situation,” Crowder said. “Shot clock was low, and I just wanted to get a good look at it. We had a play called, but didn't run it very well. I put up one of my best shots, and thank God it went in.”
It was at that point, though, that the difficulties at the line began for MU.
First, Chris Otule missed the front end of a bonus situation. South Florida's Jawanza Poland, who was fouled on the other end, hit the first and missed the second, which the Bulls rebounded. They turned it over, though, and fouled Dwight Buycks with 32.1 seconds left.
He missed both free throws and South Florida rebounded and got the ball upcourt. Butler then stripped Poland in the lane, forcing the Bulls to foul Darius Johnson-Odom. The junior guard missed both free throws, and the ball went back to South Florida.
After a reset on a near steal by Butler, the Bulls got the ball to Anthony Crater, who was stationed in the right corner. He buried a three, apparently tying the game, but prior to that coach Stan Heath had called a timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, the best the Bulls could manage was a long, challenged three from the top of the key from big man Augustus Gilchrist, who missed it short. Johnson-Odom rebounded and was fouled with 1.8 seconds remaining.
Needing to hit just one to put Marquette up by four points, the 74.8% free-throw shooter again missed both - badly - and South Florida's Toarlyn Fitzpatrick rebounded the second miss.
Crowder then fouled Fitzpatrick with 1.1 seconds left. Fitzpatrick, a 70.3% free throw shooter, hit the first and then tried to missed the second, but his shot was too hard and banked in. The Golden Eagles were able to simply inbound the ball then, and time expired.
“I was trying to get it to bounce off perfect,” Fitzpatrick said. “I tried to shoot it off to the right side, and it ended up banking right in.”