MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Jae Crowder scored 26 points and 10th-ranked Marquette overcame an 11-point halftime deficit to defeat West Virginia 61-60 Friday night at the WVU Coliseum.
West Virginia, which has struggled all year closing out games, saw its double-digit lead at 15:37 remaining in the game evaporate, the Golden Eagles eventually taking the lead on a steal and dunk by Vander Blue with 7:16 left to make it 46-45.
Marquette then built its lead to five, 58-53, when a turnover by Kevin Jones led to a Crowder layup. The Mountaineers got three of those back when Keaton Miles made the first of two at the line, missed the second, but Dominique Rutledge was there to put back the miss to make it 58-56.
After Crowder made one of two from the line to put Marquette up by three, 59-56, West Virginia turned the ball over at the other end when Deniz Kilicli’s pass intended for Bryant on the wing was stolen by Blue, who was fouled by Kilicli while going to the basket. Blue made both free throws to make it a five-point game with 1:05 remaining.
Bryant hit a pair from the line to cut it to three, 61-58, and Miles added a basket along the baseline with 14 seconds left to make it a one-point game. After a 30-second timeout, West Virginia immediately fouled Junior Cadougan, who bricked both free throw attempts, giving the Mountaineers an opportunity to win the game.
With 6.6 seconds left, Gary Browne stumbled trying to get the ball over midcourt but was able to call timeout before he could be tied up. Following the timeout, West Virginia got the ball into the hands of Bryant, who finished with a team-best 25 points, but his attempt at a driving layup to win the game bounced off the rim and the clock ran out as Mountaineer players frantically tried to chase the ball down.
"I thought it was a dog fight," said Marquette coach Buzz Williams. "I told our guys before the game - it wouldn't be a play, it wouldn't be a stat, it would be a fight from the beginning to the end."
Jones was the only other WVU player to reach double figures with 12 points.
"We had wide open looks and we didn't make any of them," said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. "Then when you give them lay ups at the other end, that really multiplies the problems and doesn't help."
West Virginia again struggled shooting the basketball, finishing the game hitting 23 of 59 for 39 percent, including 5 of 20 from 3-point distance. Marquette shot 50 percent from the floor – mainly on dribble drives to the basket and run-outs in transition – the third time in the last six games West Virginia has allowed its opponent to make at least half of their field goal attempts.
Marquette’s accurate shooting and 12 steals on defense helped overcome West Virginia’s 42-29 advantage on the glass. The Mountaineers finished the game with 19 turnovers.
"We don't play the whole game; we take plays off," said Huggins.
Tonight’s loss was a repeat of the Louisville defeat 13 days ago when the Mountaineers had a double-digit lead midway through the second half but was not able to close the deal. In fact, it’s the sixth time this year that West Virginia had had a second half lead only to lose the game. Besides Marquette and Louisville, the others were Notre Dame, Connecticut, Baylor and Akron.
West Virginia now drops to 17-12, 7-9, with remaining games against DePaul at the Coliseum on Tuesday night and then at South Florida on Saturday afternoon. The Mountaineers have now lost seven of their last nine.
Marquette, which played the first half without leading scorer Darius Johnson-Odom and two others who were benched for an undisclosed violation of team rules, improves to 24-5, 13-3.
"This one is really easy to say why now: He didn't play three of his starters in the first half and he played them in the second half," said Huggins.
Marquette is now in sole possession of second place in the league standings behind Syracuse with two conference games remaining against Cincinnati and Georgetown.