A cold shooting performance was too much for Marquette to overcome in a 68-58 loss to Florida in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night in Phoenix.
Marquette (27-8) shot a season-low 30.8 percent from the field. Its previous low was 32.2 percent against Vanderbilt on Dec. 29.
Coach Buzz Williams was gracious in defeat, giving credit to the Gators (26-10) for a solid performance on both ends of the floor.
“I have the most respect for coach (Billy) Donovan and for his staff and their players were outstanding,” Williams said. “I thought they beat us straight up from start to finish.”
The loss ended the Marquette careers of guard Darius Johnson-Odom and forward Jae Crowder, who finished with 14 and 15 points, respectively.
The seniors were a combined 10-of-30 from the field and Crowder attributed that shooting performance to him having an off night, instead of something Florida did in its defensive gameplan against him.
“I just think I didn’t shoot the ball well,” Crowder said. “I tried to impact the game in a different way on defense somewhat.”
Junior guard Junior Cadougan picked up his third foul with 4:49 left in the first half and played just 21 minutes.
Williams didn’t attribute Cadougan’s absence with foul trouble as a reason for the team’s struggle in the final moments of the first half and first six minutes of the second half after Cadougan picked up his fourth foul just one minute into the second half.
“I think we struggled being in rhythm throughout most of the game,” Williams said. “This was our 35th game and it was the only game we didn’t get to the bonus in the first half.
“It wasn’t just the second half, but it was the first half as well and it’s a rhythm that’s established not just offensively but defensively as well.”
The first half included six ties and seven lead changes, with Marquette owning a 28-27 lead after a 3-pointer by freshman guard Todd Mayo with 4:14 left.
That was the last Golden Eagle field goal of the first half, however, as Florida closed with a 9-2 run to lead 36-30 at halftime. Marquette didn’t score for the final 3:53 of the first half.
Florida guard Bradley Beal led all scorers in the first half with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, including 2-of-3 from three-point range. The Gators were relatively quiet from distance in the first half, converting on just 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) attempts.
Florida entered the game shooting 38.3 percent from beyond the arc.
The Golden Eagles did themselves no favors by shooting just 31.4 percent from the field, compared to 43.3 percent for Florida.
Junior forward Erik Murphy’s three with 15:15 left gave Florida a nine point lead. The basket was Murphy’s first make in eight tries. The basket sparked an 8-0 run, capped by a Murphy layup with 13:24 left.
Marquette responded with a 6-0 run to cut Florida’s lead to eight at 48-40, but could not come up with a basket when it needed it the most.
Erving Walker hit a cold-blooded step-back three with 2:07 left to give Florida a 61-52 lead. Marquette would not get closer than six points the rest of the way.
Beal lead all scorers with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting and also had six rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals, numbers that impressed Williams.
“In a lot of ways, I think Bradley Beal is their swing vote, because he’s so multi-versatile and talented and can guard multiple guys,” Williams said. “I mean he missed two shots, that’s a heck of a line. Really good.”