Crowder leads No. 12 Marquette over UConn 79-64
By PAT EATON-ROBB
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Marquette outrebounded and outhustled a much bigger Connecticut team on its way to a 15-point road win that keeps the Golden Eagles in position for a double bye in next month's Big East tournament.
"It's a jubilant locker room," said coach Buzz Williams. "I'm extremely pleased with our hearts and our instincts and the intellect of our team."
Johnson-Odom and Crowder combined for 29 first-half points as the Golden Eagles ran out to a 43-29 halftime lead.
UConn (16-10, 6-8) cut that to four points early in the second half, but lost its momentum when guard Ryan Boatright was called for technical foul during a timeout.
"I think that was the turning point," Johnson-Odom said. "We were able to get two free throws and the ball back and Jae hit a big three after that."
Marquette, which lost 6-foot-11 center Chris Otule in December and 6-8 Davante Gardner last month, both to knee injuries, had just seven scholarship players available and nobody over 6-7. But they outrebounded UConn 33-30, including 20-13 in the first half.
They also hit 10 of 22 shots from 3-point range, with Crowder and Johnson-Odom each hitting four.
"We start a very quick lineup and we wanted to find a way to get very easy transition points," said Johnson-Odom.
Jeremy Lamb had 19 points to lead Connecticut, which fell to 2-3 in the five games coach Jim Calhoun has missed with back problems.
A 3-pointer from Lamb and a dunk by Alex Oriakhi helped the Huskies on a 10-1 run that cut the lead to 48-44.
But after Marquette called a timeout, Boatright began chirping at Marquette guard Todd Mayo and picked up the technical foul. Two free throws followed by Crowder's 3-point shot brought the lead back nine at 53-44.
"It's just immature," said UConn guard Shabazz Napier, a team captain who called out his teammates after the game.
"I've got to question a lot of these guys' hearts," he said. "It just looked out there like we gave up at the end."
A driving layup by Crowder led to UConn center Andre Drummond's fifth foul, and the free throw gave Marquette a 75-63 lead just under 3 minutes to play, ending any threat from the Huskies.
"(Crowder) is the heart and soul of our team," said Johnson-Odom who had 16 of his points before intermission. "He does a lot of things for us - rebounding, defending, getting steals, whatever he does, it helps us a lot."
Marquette, which has never finished better than fourth place in the Big East, came in tied with Notre Dame for second place in the conference. The top four teams get a double bye in the tournament.
"Winning five games in a row is tough," said Crowder. "UConn did it last year, so it's possible, but with that double bye you have a greater chance, so that's what we're striving for."
The Golden Eagles have won four of their last five games in Connecticut and three in a row. The road team has won the last five meetings between the two schools.
Connecticut beat DePaul by 26 points on Wednesday, but has now lost seven of its last nine games and has won just four times since Jan. 1.
Coach Jim Calhoun has missed eight games so far this season, three because of an NCAA suspension for recruiting violations and the last five after taking an indefinite medical leave with spinal stenosis. The school has said he will miss at least one more game, Monday night at Villanova.
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spine, normally associated with aging and sometimes with arthritis. Calhoun is currently trying non-surgical treatments, and expects to know if they are successful by the middle of next week.
Updated February 18, 2012