It was characterized as a “dog fight” by senior forward Jimmy Butler before the game, and he couldn’t have been more right.
Marquette (20-13) pulled out a tight one, 67-61, over the West Virginia Moutaineers (20-11) in part because of sophomore guard Junior Cadougan’s 15 points, five assists, and one turnover.
Junior guard Darius Johnson-Odom, with the game tied at 55 with 4:46 left, hit 3-pointers on back-to-back Marquette possessions to open up a 61-55 lead. Marquette never trailed the rest of the way.
“You could argue that those two shots changed the game,” coach Buzz Williams said. “Definitely changed the momentum.”
It was Cadougan who found Johnson-Odom on the fast break on the first 3-pointer and it was Cadougan whom Johnson-Odom gave credit to.
“He really helped me get back into the flow, and kept me in the game,” Johnson-Odom said. “We put this game on Junior, Junior carried us, he controlled the game and he did a great job doing it.”
Johnson-Odom finished with 11 points. Prior to those 3-pointers Johnson-Odom had been 0-of-3 from deep and had only four points.
Williams said Johnson-Odom’s performance Tuesday reminded him of his performance in Marquette’s 74-67 overtime victory at Connecticut on Feb. 24.
Johnson-Odom had eight points in regulation but went off for nine in overtime.
Williams said he and Johnson-Odom butted heads that game, like they did tonight, and that Johnson-Odom used his disagreement with Williams as motivation when he’d go back into the game.
“Typically when he comes back in, he’s trying to prove me wrong,” Williams said. “Typically that translates into us having a good chance to win.”
Much of the first half was a back and forth battle. But with 3:21 left in the half West Virginia went on a 12-1 run to end the half and was down 36-29 at that time.
West Virginia hit 58.3 percent (14-of-24) from the field and 63.6 percent (7-of-11) from beyond the arc in the first half.
In the second half Marquette got after it on the defensive end, holding West Virginia to 22.2 percent (6-of-27) shooting from the field and 27.3 percent (3-of-11) on 3-pointers.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said his team simply didn’t make its shots in the second half.
“It’s been a year-long problem: We just don’t make open shots. I don’t know what to tell you,” Huggins said. “We don’t have people who can drive it to the basket. That’s not the kind of guys we have.”
The third-seeded Louisville Cardinals (23-8) are Marquette’s reward for victory. Game starts at 8 p.m.
Last time the teams met was Jan. 15 when Louisville pulled out the 71-70 victory when Marquette had an 18-point lead with 5:44 left.
“You could argue that the meltdown shook us. I don’t think we every fully regained our composure. I don’t know if we have yet even today,” Williams said. “I thought the first 34 minutes at the (KFC) Yum! Center was the best we’ve played all year. And I thought the last six minutes were as bad as we have played all year long.”