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Saturday, March 17, 2012
Rapid Reax: Marquette 62, Murray State 53

By Brian Bennett



LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Here's a quick look at No. 3 seed Marquette's 62-53 victory over No. 6 seed Murray State at the KFC Yum! Center.

Overview: The storyline going into this game was that these teams were mirror images of each other. That proved true and led to a highly entertaining game played at an express-lane pace, if a little ragged at times.

It was possible to cramp up just watching Marquette and Murray State trade possessions in transition over and over. Ultimately, Marquette pulled away late with excellent defense and a lack of marksmanship from the Racers, who made just 31.3 percent of their shots and went only 4-of-21 on 3-point tries.

But this was a street fight for 40 minutes, and Murray State vindicated its 31-2 season with two top-flight tournament performances, even if the Racers failed to make their first Sweet 16. Marquette, meanwhile, now has an advantageous path to the West Region final and is looking like a serious Final Four threat.

Turning point: Neither team could get much distance from the other most of the way, but Murray State looked like it had all the momentum when it used a 7-0 run to take a 46-41 lead, its biggest of the game, with less than eight minutes to play in the second half. The pro-Murray crowd, bolstered by Kentucky fans who were rooting for their fellow state school, was going nuts. After a pair of timeouts, though, Marquette regrouped and charged back with a 14-2 run of its own, which included a couple of big baskets inside by reserve big man Davante Gardner and lots of defensive stops. The run was aided by missed shots from Murray State star Isaiah Canaan, who suffered through a brutal 4-for-17 night.

Key player: Marquette's Jae Crowder had another huge night after putting up 25 points and 16 rebounds Thursday against BYU. Crowder struggled with his shot early but played great defense in the second half, and finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds.

Key stat: Canaan and Donte Poole, Murray State's top two scorers, were a combined 7-for-30 from the field.

Miscellany: Marquette advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year. ... The Golden Eagles made a big play just before the half, as Darius Johnson-Odom picked up a loose ball in a crowd and laid it in just before the horn after a Murray State turnover. That cut the halftime deficit to 28-25. ... The Racers' Ed Daniel was all over the place and finished with 14 rebounds, but he was quiet late. ... Murray State players said they did extra work on free throws Friday in practice after bricking 13 of 26 attempts from the foul line in their victory over Colorado State. The practice paid off, as the Racers went 9-for-10 on free throws.

What's next: Marquette advances to play the winner of Sunday's game between Norfolk State and Florida. The Golden Eagles should be a heavy favorite over either one of those teams in that game, scheduled for Thursday in Phoenix.