Cougars set sights on Golden Eagles in West Regional actionMar 15, 2012 - 2:40 PM Louisville, KY (Sports Network) - Having made NCAA Tournament history two nights ago, 14th-seeded BYU is rewarded with a meeting against third-seeded Marquette in the second round of the 74th annual event at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky this afternoon.
On Tuesday night, only a few hours after Western Kentucky battled back from a 16-point deficit in the final five minutes against Mississippi Valley State, the Cougars applied what they had learned in order to stage the largest comeback in NCAA Tournament history versus Iona. The Gaels had a 49-24 advantage in the first half and led by a 55-40 margin at the break, but in the second half BYU's defense clamped down, limiting Iona to a mere 17 points, as the Cougars pulled off the stunning 78-72 victory.
With the win over Iona, BYU improved to 15-29 in this event over the years.
As for the Golden Eagles, they are appearing in their seventh straight NCAA Tournament and their 30th overall. Marquette, which won the national championship back in 1977 under the direction of legendary head coach Al McGuire, is one of nine programs from the Big East Conference to make the cut for the 2012 edition of the tourney, just two shy of the record set by the same league just last year.
Marquette, which was defeated by Louisville in the Big East Conference Tournament (84-71) a week ago, has bowed in just three games since the second week of January as it aims to improve upon a 36-30 mark in the tournament over the years.
The series between these two schools, kicked off back in 1930-31, is knotted at two games apiece but the squads have not faced each other since the 1966-67 campaign when Marquette claimed an 81-70 victory.
The winner of this afternoon's battle will be back in action on Saturday against the survivor of the Colorado State/Murray State meeting in the third round.
The first half against Iona was a lost cause for the Cougars as they tried desperately to keep up with the frenetic pace set by the Gaels who continued to race up and down the floor. Down by 25 points late in the opening frame, BYU was able to cut into the deficit at the end of 20 minutes, giving itself some hope after intermission. In a stunning turn of events, the Cougars' defense rattled the Gaels and allowed them to make just seven total field goals after the break, a mere 1-of-15 coming from behind the three-point line. Noah Hartsock responded with 10-of-14 shooting himself from the field for BYU, finishing with 23 points, while Brandon Davies was able to shake off seven turnovers by registering a double-double with 18 points, 15 rebounds, three steals and a pair of both blocked shots and assists. Damarcus Harrison gave the Cougars a huge lift off the bench with his 12 points in 21 minutes of action. Aside from his issue with turning the ball over, Davies is first on the team on the glass (7.6 rpg) and second in scoring (15.1 ppg) after 34 games, trailing only Hartsock (16.9 ppg), who is shooting a tremendous 57.1 percent from the floor.
With a couple of the top players in the Big East on their side, the Golden Eagles are built to go deep into the tournament, that is as long as Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom get plenty of support from the rest of their teammates. Crowder was named the Big East Conference Player of the Year for 2011-12 and paired with Johnson-Odom on the All-Big East First Team as he delivered 17.4 ppg and a team-best 8.1 rpg as well as 78 steals. Now just eight points shy of reaching 1,000 for his career, Crowder is poised to become the 44th member of that club for the Golden Eagles, but only the fifth player to accomplish the feat in a mere two years. One of those other four was Johnson-Odom who this year led the program in scoring overall with 18.5 ppg and placed third on the unit with 86 assists. Junior Cadougan (6.5 ppg) has his moments scoring points, but his primary job is to make sure that his teammates are in position to put the ball in the basket after handing out 169 assists. Marquette is averaging 75.9 ppg this season, although a good bit of that was built on the backs of four straight games to open the season in which it scored at least 91 points in each against sub-standard competition.
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