Crowder, Johnson-Odom combine to drop Rutgers
MILWAUKEE — One of the biggest cheers last night at the Bradley Center came with fewer than nine minutes remaining, when Jae Crowder made his way to the Marquette bench. It was the only break the Rutgers men’s basketball team had from the senior forward all night in an 82-65 loss to the 10th-ranked team in the nation.
Crowder turned a strong first half into a dominant second, dismissing any notion of a Scarlet Knights rally on the road.
So when he made his way to the bench for a brief break, he received an ovation trumped only by the final thank you for his 27 points with 2:12 remaining.
“Right now, they have men and we have boys,” said head coach Mike Rice. “It’s as simple as that.”
Crowder returned less than a minute after that substitution and immediately scored. It gave the Golden Eagles their largest lead of the night at 16.
The Knights already rallied from 15 down in the first half to twice cut the deficit to 4, and they had it as close as 6 in the second half.
But they were never really in it.
Darius Johnson-Odom was the reason in the first half, when he scored 19 of his 21 points with a shooting performance reminiscent of the 29 he scored last year in Piscataway. The senior guard went cold in the second half, but it never mattered.
“There’s only so much you can do with a Big East leading scorer,” said freshman point guard Jerome Seagears.
Crowder scored 6 of Marquette’s first 8 points out of the half, forcing Rice to call a timeout less than three minutes into a half for the second time.
This one came after Crowder tipped in a missed layup in transition. The first came only 2:02 into the game, when the Knights left Johnson-Odom uncovered under the basket for easy points on an inbounds play.
It gave the Golden Eagles a 3-point lead, and it was never as close again.
“We should learn from our mistakes, but we don’t seem to get better,” said sophomore forward Gilvydas Biruta, who was one of four Knights to score in double figures. “This feels like rock bottom.”
Marquette pushed the pace from the outset, pressing full-court and running at every opportunity.
Rutgers gave the Golden Eagles plenty of opportunities, turning the ball over a season-high 23 times. Marquette took full advantage, turning them into 31 points.
Marquette made 24 trips to the foul line. Rutgers made three.
“This young group … they live to turn the ball over,” Rice said. “We want to do what Marquette does, at a tempo and a pace.”
The closest thing to a bright spot came from Seagears, but then he disappeared for nearly 24 minutes.
He led the Knights offensively, scoring 11 of the team’s first 25 points only 12 minutes into the game. But he did not attempt a shot again until Rutgers trailed by 14 with 8:50 remaining.
Marquette grabbed the rebound off of Seagears’ miss, and Crowder made his way to the bench. It was a welcomed sight for the Knights, but the 6-foot-6 forward already put the game well out of reach.
“Their whole team was tremendous on the break,” Rice said. “If you can’t stop someone from putting their head down and scoring layups, you’re not going to be very successful. We certainly weren’t tonight.