No. 10 Marquette rallies to edge W.Va.
Buzz Williams danced a slow jig in front of a booing crowd as John Denver’s ”Country Roads” played on the loudspeakers, a brief celebration of Marquette’s comeback win over West Virginia.
Only when the coach realized the song — the Mountaineers’ unofficial anthem played after every game — contained the words ”West Virginia” did he catch himself and stop.
”I apologize,” Williams said. ”It was very unprofessional. That’s a bad representation of our program.
”I was just really excited. That was all. How I grew up, in the country, that was one of my favorite songs growing up.”
Williams couldn’t help himself after No. 10 Marquette came from 15 points down in the second half to beat West Virginia 61-60 Friday night, especially since he decided to bench Darius Johnson-Odom and two other starters in the first half for breaking team rules.
Williams declined to give the reason for the penalties.
”Regardless of locale, regardless of time of year, regardless of winning streak or losing streak or magnitude of the game, there has to be a standard,” Williams said. ”There has to be accountability, and our guys messed up. They understood, and that was the end of it. Everything’s back to normal and we’ll move on.”
Johnson-Odom, the team’s leading scorer, sat out the first half along with team assists leader Junior Cadougan and Vander Blue. Still, the Golden Eagles (24-5, 13-3 Big East) won their fifth straight and 12th in the last 13 games.
Johnson-Odom said being benched was tough, but ”I knew I had a good group of guys that can step in and play as good as me and my other teammates.” He said he was ”pumped up” to get into the game.
Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, who led Marquette with 26 points, eventually keyed a 24-8 run that helped the Golden Eagles overtake the Mountaineers.
Cadougan’s layup put Marquette ahead to stay at 54-53 with 4:17 remaining. West Virginia had a chance to win it, but Darryl ”Truck” Bryant missed a wild, off-balance shot from the baseline with 2 seconds left.
West Virginia (17-12, 7-9) has lost four of five and may need to win its final two regular-season games to have any chance of an at-large bid for its fifth straight NCAA tournament appearance.
”This is as frustrated as I’ve been since my first year at Walsh College, when I went home and I asked my wife `Do you think I can sell insurance?”’ West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. ”Because I can’t do this. I can’t lose like this. It just eats me up.”
Bryant, who had shot 24 percent from the field in his 10 previous games, led West Virginia with 25 points.
Kevin Jones, the conference’s leading scorer and rebounder, spent most of the game in foul trouble and was limited to 12 points and six rebounds.
With Johnson-Odom, Cadougan and Blue benched for the first half, reserve Todd Mayo got his second start, although he, too, was ordered to sit out in the second half due to a similar violation.
Jamail Jones was given his first start of the season, while Derrick Wilson got his second.
Marquette led briefly in the first half and didn’t get any momentum going until West Virginia fell apart down the stretch.
Bryant’s 3-pointer gave West Virginia its largest lead at 37-22 with 18:36 left.
West Virginia had a 42-29 rebounding advantage for the game but got burned on transition defense and gave up numerous layups in the second half.
Crowder made three layups in a 5-minute span. A 10-2 run brought the Golden Eagles to 39-34 after Johnson-Odom’s first basket and Marquette took its first lead of the second half, 46-45, on Blue’s dunk with 7:16 left.
Blue sank two free throws with 1:05 remaining for Marquette’s final points and a 61-56 lead.
Bryant made two free throws with 41 seconds to go and Keaton Miles hit a layup with 15 seconds left, but the Mountaineers couldn’t score on their final possession.
”We played with unbelievable heart,” Crowder said. ”We got stops when we needed them and I think it was the stops defensively that got us the win down the stretch.”