College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, February 24, 2012
Marquette head coach Buzz Williams is serious about basketball and about team rules. So serious, that he benched three starters for violating those rules for the first half of Marquette's road trip to hungry west Virginia.
Riding the pine for the first twenty minutes were Darius Johnson-Odom, the team’s leading scorer, team assists leader Junior Cadougan and sophomore guard Vander Blue. The loss of three starters left a bit of a void in the Golden Eagles' lineup, but then again, they still had Mr. Do-it-all, Jae Crowder on the floor.
Crowder played all 40 minutes of the game and led all scorers with 26 points, but that still didn't prevent the undermanned Golden Eagles from falling behind by as many as 15 points and heading into intermission down 32-21.
With their full complement of players back for the second half - lessons learned - Marquette surged to a lead late in the second half and held on for the 61-60 win, a final heave by Mountaineer Darryl "Truck" Bryant missing everything as time expired.
Crowder was 9-for-17 with a pair of treys, and had his usual assortment of stats, with four rebounds, two steals a couple of blocked shots and an assist.
10th-ranked Marquette improved to 24-5, and 13-3 in the Big East, good for sole possession of second place in the conference behind 15-1 Syracuse and just 1/2 game ahead of Notre Dame, at 12-3. With just two games left on the regular season schedule - against Cincinnati and Georgetown - the Golden Eagles are close to assuring themselves of a first and second round bye in the upcoming Big East tournament, should they finish the season in the top four.
NOTABLE: Harvard rallied from a 10-point deficit to avenge their only Ivy League loss of the season, whipping Princeton, 67-64 to take a commanding two-game lead in the conference at 10-1, over second place Penn (8-2), who just happen to be visiting the Crimson for a Saturday night tilt. Harvard can clinch the conference title on their home court win a win and assure themselves of a spot in the NCAA tournament. After Penn, the Crimson finish up the regular season on the road, at Columbia and Cornell. Harvard is 24-3 on the season.