Marquette holds off Georgetown, clinches No. 2 seed in Big East tournament

MILWAUKEE -- Hoarse from yelling his way through an intense game, Buzz Williams hardly could speak.

He didn't need to talk to show Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder what they've meant to him.

Crowder scored 26 points with 14 rebounds and Johnson-Odom added 17 points in the duo's final home appearance as seniors, helping Marquette (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) beat Georgetown (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today, No. 11 AP) 83-69 on Saturday and secure the No. 2 seed in the Big East tournament.

Williams substituted for both players in the final minute of the game, clapping wildly and giving each one a bear hug as they walked off the court to standing ovations. Speaking with a scratchy voice afterward, Williams tried his best to sum up his feelings toward them -- first in a ceremony on the court, then at the interview podium.

"There's very few lion chasers any more in our world," Williams said. "Those dudes chase lions, and don't talk about it. But that's evident."

And while it was the last appearance for Johnson-Odom and Crowder on Marquette's home court, neither player seemed emotionally overwhelmed. Maybe that's because the Golden Eagles (25-6, 14-4) hope to play their way deep into March.

"We're not even thinking about it, really," Johnson-Odom said. "We're trying to focus on winning the Big East championship now."

The Golden Eagles outscored the Hoyas 24-8 in points off turnovers and held Jason Clark to 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting. Marquette's high-octane transition game overwhelmed a good defensive team, as the Golden Eagles got to the free-throw line 45 times and hit 33.

"A lot of it led from poor decisions on offense which then led to transition baskets for them or fouls in transition, which happened a lot," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "I don't think our transition defense was where it has to be.

Otto Porter and Hollis Thompson scored 19 points each for the Hoyas (22-7, 12-6), who could have clinched a double-bye in the conference tournament with a victory.

Clark blamed the loss primarily on the Hoyas' bad decisions on offense.

"They are a good transition team and they were able to get out and run and score baskets," Clark said.

With the victory, Marquette finished the season undefeated at home in Big East play. The Golden Eagles rebounded well from a disappointing 72-61 loss at Cincinnati on Wednesday, where they shot 34 percent from the field and tied a season high with 17 turnovers.

Forward Davante Gardner returned for the Golden Eagles, checking in at the 11:17 mark in the first half.

Gardner had been out since injuring his left knee in Marquette's victory at Villanova on Jan. 28, missing eight games -- a significant loss for an already undersized team.

The 6-8, 290-pound Gardner had six points and eight rebounds in nine minutes in the first half. But he had trouble moving at times and limped noticeably to the bench when he was taken out of the game just before halftime.

"He looked real good to me," Crowder said. "Still not back to how he was, but he's working, getting better each and every day."

Gardner played only six minutes in the second half, finishing with eight points and eight rebounds.

Williams figures Gardner is "probably 80 percent," but needed to get back into the rotation.

"I think he's tired of hearing from the doctors and the trainers," Williams said. "He's probably at the point emotionally where he needs me to holler and scream at him so that he'll progress the rest of the way."

Leading 39-29 at halftime, Marquette opened the second half on a 9-2 run to take control of the game.

With Marquette pressing on defense, Crowder came up with a steal near midcourt, then launched an alley-oop pass to Jamil Wilson, who slammed it home to give the Golden Eagles a 48-31 lead with 17:55 left.

Wilson was assessed a technical foul for hanging on the rim, but momentum clearly was in Marquette's favor.

The Golden Eagles knew a double-digit lead wasn't necessarily safe against the Hoyas. Georgetown beat Marquette 73-70 Jan. 4 after the Golden Eagles squandered a big lead in the second half.

A Georgetown spurt would cut Marquette's lead to 51-43 with 14:31 left. Georgetown's Henry Sims then fouled out with 9:33 left, leaving the game with five points and nine rebounds.

With Marquette nursing a nine-point lead, Crowder converted a three-point play -- then came up with a steal and a fastbreak layup, giving the Golden Eagles a 67-53 lead with 6:33 left. Thompson then whiffed on what would have been a soaring slam dunk.

The Hoyas again cut the lead to nine with a shot by Porter and a three-point play by Mikael Hopkins, but Crowder scored on a putback and was fouled. Crowder missed the free throw, but Marquette led by 11 with just under four minutes left.