Terrence Ross (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)
NEW YORK CITY - Jae Crowder's first three-pointer of the night came with seven seconds left, and it proved to be the difference as No. 11 Marquette beat Washington 79-77 at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night as part of the 2011 Jimmy V Foundation Classic to help support cancer research.
It seemed fitting that the Huskies would be part of such an endeavor, as one of their own - former UW player Andrew Moritz - passed away last week about a three-year long bout with desmoplastic small round cell tumor. Marquette Head Coach Buzz Williams' yellow coat was worn to help raise $5,000 for the Foundation.
Williams and the Golden Eagles were clearly feeling charitable early on, allowing Washington to race out to a 13-4 lead by the first television timeout, spurred on by three-pointers from C.J. Wilcox and Terrence Ross. By the end of the first half, Marquette had erased that margin and finished ahead 37-34.
The second half was a good, old-fashioned titanic struggle, with neither team able to separate themselves by more than four points. The lead was traded back and forth six times the final 20 minutes. Crowder, who was held to only two points in the first half came back strong with 16 second-half points. After a Todd Mayo three put the Golden Eagles up two with 5:52 left, Marquette's last nine points were made from their two leading scorers - Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom.
By that time the Huskies were relying mostly on Terrence Ross, who finished the game with a team-high 19. He scored Washington's final four points, one on a tip and the other on a contested basket in the post with 17 seconds left to give UW a 77-76 lead.
"Couple of times we turned the ball over trying to get him the basketball," UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said of Ross. "We got it to him, we got him set up to get a lob on one of them, set a couple others up. But in that situation we got him the ball in the mid-post area on the block there, and he's pretty good over there. He did a great job converting in spite of contact."
The Golden Eagles raced to the floor and set a screen to free the 6-foot-6, 235-pound Crowder, who was 0-3 from deep at the time. His defender, Darnell Gant, got caught behind the screen and Crowder cooly swished in a trey from the right baseline.
"It was a back-breaker," Gant said. "I felt like our guys did a good job of playing hard defense down the stretch, and I felt like we were getting stops. We got the baskets that we needed - coach drew up a good play - but I just felt like on that last shot our defensive awareness wasn't up to par."
"Well, it was going to be Odom or Crowder, first and second leading scorers," Romar added when asked about Marquette's final possession. "So it was going to be one of the two. Crowder is a good three-point shooter, but he hadn't hit one all night, except the one that counted. He had a really good second half, got a lot of buckets inside. We had missed a couple assignments with him early and he didn't convert. This time, he did."
Washington's Abdul Gaddy raced up the court, and tried to squeeze in-between two Marquette defenders in front of the Washington bench for one last look, but it never touched iron as the Golden Eagles celebrated.
Even though it was the three that crushed Washington's hopes in the end, Romar stated he thought baskets in transition were the difference in the game. Marquette out-scored Washington 10-0 on the fast break.
"I'm gonna state the obvious, but Marquette is a really good basketball team," Romar said. "They play within themselves and have multiple guys that can put the heat on you offensively, and play good defense. They are physical and they're tough. If you fall asleep, as we saw at several points in this game - they capitalize on your mistakes. We give them a lot of credit for the team that they are. But I couldn't be more proud of our guys the way our guys played. We didn't finish the game, and that's unfortunate. But I think with our team, we're making progress. That's what we have to shoot for to ultimately be the best that we can be."
Points: Ross 19, Wilcox 15, Gant 14, Wroten 13, Simmons 8, N'Diaye 4, Gaddy 4
Rebounds: N'Diaye 13, Ross 9, Simmons 7, Wroten 6, TEAM 5, Wilcox 3, Gant 2, Gaddy 1
Assists: Gant 4, Ross 3, Wroten 3, Gaddy 2, Simmons 1
Steals: Gant 1, Wilcox 1, Ross 1
Blocks: Wilcox 4, N'Diaye 2, Ross 1