The BYU men’s basketball team attempted another second half rally, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome Marquette on Thursday in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
The Cougars found themselves down by 19 in the first half, but were able to make defensive adjustments to cut the lead to 6. But the Golden Eagles put the game out of reach with several conversions on free throws down the stretch to win 88-68. Marquette will move on to play Murray State on Saturday.
The major disparity in the game was rebounding. Marquette outrebounded the Cougars 48-32, including 16-8 on the offensive side. Senior forward and Big East player of the year Jae Crowder executed the majority of the damage, scoring 25 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.
“He’s a very versatile player,” BYU senior forward Noah Hartsock said. “He can shoot the ball and get in there and rebound. He’s one of those special players, that when they find them, they just want to keep them as long as they can. He’s a great competitor.”
The Golden Eagles shot 45.5 percent from the floor and 45 percent from beyond the arc, as well as being able to score second-chance points to pad their lead over the Cougars.
“That’s one thing that you see on tape but don’t know until you experience,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “We knew this was a really aggressive offensive rebounding team. But our game plan was to try to keep them away from the basket and make them make shots, and they did that as well. When they make nine threes, you’re going to have a hard time beating them. They were terrific tonight.”
The Cougars found themselves down by 15 at the half, but they were able to make a good run by adjusting their defense and playing more physical and getting the ball to junior forward Brandon Davies. But Marquette was able to remain poised to put the game out of reach.
“We knew they were going to come out with a run,” Crowder said. “This team has a lot of heart, just like any other team in the tournament. They don’t want to go home. So we knew it was coming, we just wanted to hold on and stay poised.”
Davies led BYU with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while senior forward Noah Hartsock contributed 15 points after only playing 10 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. Junior guard Craig Cusick contributed 12 points off of 3-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc.
I was glad to see that we had opportunities to come back and win,” Cusick said. “That’s reflective of our team’s season. I’m proud of all our teammates and coaches. Everyone was believing the whole time that we could come back. Unfortunately, Marquette did a good job with holding that lead that they had.”
The Cougars finish the season 26-9, marking their sixth consecutive tournament appearance and sixth consecutive 25-win season. Hartsock and Charles Abouo, the two seniors, have been part of the last four of those.
“These two seniors, Charles and Noah are special guys,” Rose said. “They’ve been involved in more wins than any player in the history of this school. We will miss them. I will miss them personally. With the challenge of changing leagues and traveling to venues that no one’s played at, it was important to us to get back to the tournament and being able to win a game. It was a special year.”