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Golden Eagles look to exact revenge on DePaul

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Marquette’s victory over No. 19 Connecticut contained many storylines aside from the 70-68 final score.

Just a week before the Golden Eagles and Huskies faced off, Connecticut knocked off then-No. 1 Texas by a convincing 88-74 margin.

Since then, Connecticut — playing without coach Jim Calhoun due to medical leave — has been tripped up by Providence, 81-66, and most recently Marquette on Saturday.

“It was just our will,” sophomore guard Darius Johnson-Odom said. “We had the will to win, and we knew that was a big game for us on the road.”

On paper, the Golden Eagles couldn’t match up with the long and athletic Huskies. Connecticut starts three players standing 6-foot-9 or above and brings Gavin Edwards (6-foot-10) and Charles Okwandu (7-foot) off the bench. Defending these players were Marquette’s Lazar Hayward, Jimmy Butler and Johnson-Odom, all of whom stand under 6-foot-6.

But somehow Marquette squeaked out a thriller and stunned the Huskies on their home floor.

“We’re used to being undersized and banging down low with the big men,” Butler said. “With our mindset and our mentality, we’re not giving in because we work so hard. We played a lot of good defense, caused a lot of turnovers and that was big for us.”

It’s no secret that the Golden Eagles have had their fair share of heartbreakers this season, and Saturday’s contest was heading in the same direction until a dramatic series of events occurred in the game’s final minute.

With 54 seconds left in the game, Connecticut senior guard Jerome Dyson threw up a desperation 3-pointer with the shot clock running out and nailed it to give the Huskies a three-point lead. Dyson’s shot looked to be the dagger, but Johnson-Odom calmly knocked down three free throws to knot up the score.

“They were just free throws,” he said. “I’ve been struggling from the line. I just wanted to get a good routine, take deep breaths and knock them down, and that’s what I did.”

After a Connecticut missed field goal, Jimmy Butler hit a fall-away jumper with two seconds left to propel Marquette to its first road victory of the season.

“The play wasn’t for me, it was for (Johnson-Odom) … but they denied him the ball, so I went around and the paint was open so I just made a play and the ball went in,” Butler said about his game-winner. “It was by far the biggest shot of my career.”

The win at Connecticut does wonders for the Golden Eagles’ morale, as every game from here on out is crucial.

“It says a lot because most teams aren’t mentally tough enough to overcome (Dyson’s shot), being down three at one of the toughest places to play in the nation,” senior guard Maurice Acker said. “That’s big time for us.”

The Golden Eagles now welcome DePaul to the Bradley Center Wednesday night and look to get revenge after losing 51-50 to the Blue Demons Jan. 20. When the two teams met in Chicago, Marquette looked out of sorts for most of the game and let a late lead slip away.

“Our mindset needs to change,” Acker said. “We weren’t playing Marquette basketball at DePaul and it came back and bit us. … If we play our game, we shouldn’t have a problem.”

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