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Marquette rallies once more to advance

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Marquette has perfected the art of the comeback.

With Marquette down late again, Jae Crowder scored six points during a decisive 14-2 run and the third-seeded Golden Eagles pulled away from Murray State for a 62-53 victory Saturday that sent them into next weekend's West Region semifinals.

Crowder finished with 17 points, 12 in the second half, and 13 rebounds. Darius Johnson-Odom also scored 17 for Marquette (27-7).

"When you're playing a team like Murray State, they're going to keep throwing punches and throwing punches, and you have to find a way to slow them down," Johnson-Odom said. "We did a great job of that."

Isaiah Canaan had 16 points and six rebounds for the sixth-seeded Racers (31-2), who fell just short of their first trip to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years. This one is sure to sting, too, even if it wasn't as gut-wrenchingly close. Murray State lost to Butler 54-52 in 2010 when Butler's Gordon Hayward forced a Canaan turnover with about 10 seconds left.

The Racers have come a long way since. They won their first 23 games this season, were the last team in the country to lose and showed against Marquette they can play with anyone.

"We proved (Saturday) that we belong, and we belonged on a national stage," Racers coach Steve Prohm said. "We just weren't good enough the last seven minutes."

Give Marquette some credit for that. Despite a decided size advantage, the Golden Eagles could not get in sync against the speedy, aggressive Racers.

That Marquette was essentially playing a road game couldn't have helped. Plenty of Racers fans made the 31/2-hour drive for the game, and Kentucky fans jumped on the bandwagon in a show of state solidarity. When Jewuan Long made a layup to put the Racers up 46-41 with 7:43 to play, the crowd responded with the kind of roar usually reserved for that other Kentucky team.

But the Golden Eagles had plenty of practice at rallying during the regular season, when they came back to win six games after trailing by 11 or more, and never doubted they could come back against the Racers. "Eight minutes," Johnson-Odom said, "is like 30 minutes."

LOUISVILLE 59, NEW MEXICO 56: Russ Smith had 17 points as the Cardinals (28-9) held off the Lobos (28-7) in Portland, Ore., for their sixth straight win to advance to the region semifinals for the first time since 2009.

Trailing 53-46, New Mexico's Drew Gordon hit two free throws, and Demetrius Walker made a 3-pointer to pull within 53-51 with 1:36 left. Smith made two free throws for fourth-seeded Louisville, but Gordon answered with a tip-in.

Gorgui Dieng dunked with 32.3 seconds left and Peyton Siva added two free throws to make it 59-53. Gordon hit a 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left, but it was too late for the Lobos, who have never been to the Sweet 16.

Marquette rallies once more to advance 03/17/12 [Last modified: Sunday, March 18, 2012 12:26am]
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