LOUISVILLE — For 32 minutes and 34 seconds, Saturday evening’s third-round West Regional game between sixth-seeded Murray State and third seed Marquette was all Racers coach Steve Prohm could have wished for.
“We were up five at the seven-minute media timeout — felt really good,” said Prohm, who graduated from Northwest Whitfield High School in Tunnel Hill, Ga., in 1992.
“We just weren’t good enough that last seven minutes. I’ll look at the tape and figure out why.”
When he reviews the Golden Eagles’ 62-53 win, he’ll no doubt notice the four 3-pointers the Racers missed in as many attempts in those final seven minutes, the five turnovers in that time and eight total misses from the field in 10 attempts.
Or as Marquette guard Darius Johnson-Odom — who shared scoring honors with teammate Jae Crowder (17 each) — noted afterward: “Eight minutes is like 30 minutes. You’ve got to continue to stay focused. With the guys we have stepping up, it’s going to be hard for a lot people to hang with us.”
Now the Florida-Norfolk State winner will have to try and hang in there in the West Region’s semifinal round in Phoenix.
But Murray State, which finished 32-2, hung in there most of the night. After falling behind 12-7, the smaller, quicker Racers ran off to a 28-25 halftime advantage that could have been even larger had Johnson-Odom not converted a steal into a layup just ahead of the first-half horn.
This was what Marquette coach Buzz Williams had appeared to worry about Friday during Marquette’s news conference.
Asked if quickness (Murray) could overcome size and strength, Williams said, “Fast beats big when fast is fast. I learned that as a little boy, and I believe that, I coach that, I recruit that.”
And most of the time, Marquette is the fastest team on the floor. But in that opening half, especially off the dribble, it appeared to be the Racers. It remained that way for the first two minutes of the second half when Murray’s Isaiah Canaan hit a layup with his back to the basket to keep MSU in front 30-27.
The lead went back and forth from there for a long time, but then the Racers took that 46-41 advantage with 7:43 left on a Jewuan Long layup and most of the 22,000 inside the KFC Yum! Center threatened to blow the roof off, despite a thunderstorm raging outside.
Yet following that media timeout, Marquette clamped down.
The Golden Eagles closed out the game on a 21-7 run, Crowder providing the highlight sequence when he blocked a Murray shot on one end, then buried a 3-pointer off the top of the key on the other to move Marquette’s lead to 54-48.
Murray State never got closer than four points the rest of the game — and never with the ball.
Isaiah Canaan led the Racers with 16 points but was 4-of-17 from the floor and 2-of-8 from the 3-point line, where Murray was just 4-of-21 as a team.
Said senior guard Donte Poole, who missed eight of nine 3s: “That 3-pointer is what we’ve made our living on all season, but you’re not going to hit 60 percent of them every night. You either live with it or die with it, and today we died with it.”
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...