by David Cassilo / @dcassilo
Of the 11 Big East teams to make the NCAA tournament, Marquette had the lowest seed, but as the dust settles after the the tournament’s first weekend the Golden Eagles will be one of just two of those 11 teams to advance to the Sweet 16. Thanks to a go-ahead jumper by Darius Johnson-Odom with 27 seconds remaining, Marquette beat Syracuse 66-62 and will be playing on the second weekend for the first time in eight years.
In what was a typical Big East battle, the entire second half was played with no team leading by more than five points. Marquette’s ability to get to the line was the difference, though, as the Golden Eagles attempted 16 more free throws than the Orange. After Johnson-Odom’s jumper, Marquette hit its final four free throws to seal the deal and prevail.
Although Marquette went just 9-9 in conference, it is now just two wins from the Final Four.
From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Afterward, Marquette’s Buzz Williams praised his team of unheralded overachievers with a voice raspy from screaming throughout two close NCAA tournament games.
“You have four junior college guys up here,” Williams said, motioning to Johnson-Odom, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder and himself. “We were trying to figure out if we could eat at McDonald’s or Burger King. We weren’t sure what Sweet 16 meant other than our 16th birthday.”
Awaiting Marquette in the Sweet 16 in Newark will be North Carolina. The two met in the 1977 NCAA title game, when Marquette won its only national title.