BYU rally falls short in 88-68 loss to Marquette

NANCY ARMOUR AP National Writer Published:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Instead of three consecutive 30-win seasons, BYU will have to settle for a piece of history.

Two days after making the biggest comeback ever in the NCAA tournament, the Cougars were unable to dig themselves out of another big hole Thursday and fell 88-68 to third-seeded Marquette. Brandon Davies had 19 points and 12 rebounds for the 14th-seeded Cougars (26-9), and Noah Hartsock added 15 points despite playing only 10 minutes in the first half after picking up three fouls.

"The accomplishments of this team, as far as from the outside, maybe will not be appreciated as much as from the inside," coach Dave Rose said. "With the challenge of changing leagues and dealing with a whole different mindset and emotional approach to every game, traveling on the road in conference to every venue that no one's ever played in, being able to go through a season without losing consecutive games -- those are all really important to us.

"Getting back to the tournament and being able to win a game in the tournament, it's a special year."

This was probably never going to be a fair fight, not with the Cougars only 36 hours removed from the biggest comeback in NCAA tournament history. BYU beat Iona 78-72 in the First Four on Tuesday night after erasing a 25-point, first-half deficit. And sure enough, Jae Crowder and the Golden Eagles (26-7) raced out to an 18-5 lead in the first five minutes, with Crowder (nine points) personally outscoring the Cougars.

Marquette pushed the lead as high as 19 in the first half.

"We knew they were going to come out with a run. They have fight in them like any team in the NCAA tournament, and they did not want to go home," Crowder said.

Sure enough, Davies, who missed the NCAA tournament last year after being booted from the team for an honor code violation, opened the second half with three straight buckets to get BYU within 10. He drew a charge when he got flattened by Todd Mayo, and Craig Cusick drilled a 3-pointer at the opposite end of the floor to cut the lead to 50-43.

It was the first time BYU was within single digits since midway through the first half.

"Everyone was believing the whole time that we could come back," Cusick said.

But the Golden Eagles were simply too big and too strong. Darius Johnson-Odom knocked down a 3 after the Golden Eagles outmuscled BYU for back-to-back offensive rebounds, and Davante Gardner followed with a finish down low that drew a foul. Gardner converted the three-point play, and Marquette found itself back up 69-52 with 10:56 left.

BYU would never get within single digits again.

Crowder finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds, while Johnson-Odom scored 12 of his 20 points in the second half.

The Golden Eagles (26-7) now play sixth-seeded Murray State in the third round Saturday. The Racers beat 11th-seeded Colorado State 58-41 earlier Thursday.

"I don't think they played any harder than we did. I don't think they fought any harder than we did," Rose said. "They were just a little better."

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