With 7:35 left in Saturday’s game, Marquette’s season hung in the balance. The Golden Eagles were down 46-41, in as hostile an environment as you can get in the NCAA Tournament.
Let’s Bill Simmons this bad boy and take you step by step look at how the Golden Eagles persevered through a courtside Retro Diary.
7:35 remaining, second half: 20,000 of 22,000 fans are on their feet, creating a raucous environment in the Yum! Center after a Murray State layup pushed the lead to five. Buzz calls a timeout to settle his team, a crucial call that turns the game around, but we’ll get to that. Buzz is by no means a member of time-outers anonymous, choosing to let his team play through the adversity oftentimes, but the stakes were simply too high. Had he let the play continue with the crowd on its feet as it was, it would have been tough to get a good offensive possession with Derrick Wilson at the helm. An empty possession there followed by a Racer score would have been near insurmountable in those conditions. Good call Buzz.
(Side note: Sitting courtside behind the Murray State bench I had no idea Buzz’s voice was so hoarse he had to resort to written instructions to lead his team. After analyzing the Zapruder film it appears Buzz wrote “Mash Down,” “Monster Posts,” “Listen,” and “Samp.” I have absolutely no idea what they refer to, but when the T-shirts go on sale, I call dibs on the first one. Never have such few words meant so much to a program.)
7:21: Todd Mayo shows no fear once again, backing down his man and getting fouled on a lay-in attempt. He hits the two freebies to cut the Murray lead to 3 and does the Sam Cassell “dance” — not really, but that was a ballsy play.
6:38: Jae Crowder gets good positioning and sinks a short shot with a kiss off the glass to make it 46-45 bad guys. The run has been officially contained and the crowd starts getting nervous. It’s also important to note Jamil Wilson was absolutely spectacular during this stretch, playing NBA-level defense and tipping two rebounds out of the reach of the dude with the fro who had been abusing Marquette on the glass before then.
6:03: Davante Gardner checks into the game for the first time since the 2:01 mark of the first half, a 16-minute stretch, when I immediately tweet: “ten bucks says ox gets this shot.” Yuuuuup. Mayo fires a bullet into Gardner whose soft mitts gently caress the ball up and into the bucket, giving the Golden Eagles its first lead since it was 41-39.
5:18: Ox sinks two at the charity stripe to make it an 8-0 run, at which point the Marquette faithful, who were outnumbered 10-1, are going bonkers. One important point here is that the stoppage in play allows Buzz to sub in offense for defense, taking out Gardner and replacing him with Wilson.
5:02: Murray State finally stops the bleeding with a put back bunny by Ivan Aska, cutting Marquette’s lead to one and bringing the quieted crowd back to life. The Murray coach proceeds to call a timeout, a decision that absolutely baffles me. 1) It takes the crowd out of it, putting them on their butts for the super-long timeout. 2) It allows Buzz to put Gardner back in. 3) It lets Marquette’s offense regroup. Sure enough, 18 seconds later Gardner puts in another bucket for his sixth consecutive point. Bad call coach.
4:22: The following sequence changes the course of the game. Crowder takes a charge, a questionable call that went in the dreadlocked warrior’s favor, and follows that up with his one and only 3-pointer of the game to push the lead to six. As Bill Raftery is prone to say: onions.
3:32: After Gardner makes an uncharacteristic bad pass for a turnover, Mayo makes a very intelligent play in chasing down the ball carrier and poking the ball out a mere three seconds later. Huge play from the rook.
3:07: Cadougan throws a pretty bouncer into the Big East Player of the Year who only makes one of two at the line after getting fouled. 55-48. Too much time left to feel comfortable yet. (By the way, Marquette has scored 14 of 16 since that Buzz timeout.)
1:16: After possession after possession of stifling defense, Mayo secures a rebound and sends a long outlet pass to a wide-open DJO whose flush would have sealed the deal. Instead, Isaiah Canaan makes a ridiculously athletic play to steal the pass and earn a trip to the free-throw line. First shot: clank. He does make the second to score the Racer’s first point in four minutes and make it 55-49.
1:01: Mayo once again shows he is still a freshman, foolishly driving to the hoop and getting stuffed instead of wasting clock and forcing Murray to foul. The ensuing possession results in a Murray lay-up, cutting a safe lead of six down to a much more manageable four.
0:53: DJO is at the line shooting two. Every Marquette fan everywhere: “Please don’t miss, please don’t miss, please don’t miss.” First one’s up . . . swish. Second in the air . . . no doubt about it. Someone please check his pulse, mad Kanye is a cold-blooded killer.
0:36: After Canaan sinks two for Murray State to keep the lead at four, Junior Cojones answers with two of his own. 59-53. One more stop should just about do it.
0:21: DJO pokes the ball out of Donte Poole’s hands and gets fouled. “We are Marquette” rains down from the rafters. Goosebumps.
0:09: After DJO hits both of his, Blue follows suit with two freebies of his own and capping a 21-7 run. 62-53.
0:00: Don’t forget your suntan lotion, we’re going to Phoenix!