Jae Crowder and No. 10 Marquette might still be unbeaten if they had saved their 3 best minutes of basketball for the end.
Marquette raced to 13-0 lead at LSU on Monday night, only to watch the Tigers methodically claw back, energize their crowd and ultimately extend their own winning streak to five games with a 67-59 upset victory.
"As good as we were in the first 4 minutes, we were just as bad in the last 15 minutes" of the first half, Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. "We landed the first blow in the fight, but from that point forward they kept jabbing. They got us on our heels."
Crowder scored 22 points for Marquette (10-1), which was trying to improve to 11-0 for the first time since 1972-73.
Marquette came in shooting nearly 50 percent on the season, but LSU responded by packing the inside with defenders and the Golden Eagles were uncharacteristically unable to hit shots, connecting only 36.2 percent (21 of 58). Marquette attempted 23 3-pointers, hitting only 8.
"LSU was really good on both ends of the floor," Williams said. "The things we have relied on up to this point, we were not good at executing."
After Marquette's fast start, LSU coach Trent Johnson decided he needed some senior leadership on the court.
In came forward Storm Warren, center Malcolm White, and guard Chris Bass. Out went Marquette's hold on the game.
"We got hit in the face a little bit," Johnson said. "Those guys came in and gave us some energy. ... Your ability to keep your poise and play through some adversity is huge."
The seniors helped LSU take the lead before halftime, and Ralston Turner went on to score a team 22 points for the Tigers, hitting four of five 3-point attempts.
Turner hit two clutch 3-pointers in the final 4 minutes to give the Tigers the lead and added two free throws to make it 60-54 with 1:19 to go. Justin Hamilton then closed out a 13-point performance by making seven free throws in the last 53 seconds to ensure the Tigers (8-3) held off a comeback attempt.
LSU took mostly high percentage shots and made 53.5 percent (23 of 43), far above their 39 percent mark for the season.
Warren scored 10 points for LSU, all in the first half. The Tigers outrebounded Marquette 35-32 and held a 22-18 advantage in scoring inside.
"This game shows us that the work we put in and our dedication and commitment that we have to each other and on our defense pays off," Warren said. "Our confidence has been up. Even in certain situations, we held our heads high and we competed."
Marquette's Darius Johnson-Odom, returning from a one-game suspension for violating team rules, scored 16 points.
His layup sparked an 8-0 second-half run that was capped by Crowder's fall-away jumper, which put Marquette ahead 31-29.
After that, it was a seesaw affair in which neither team could build a lead of more than three points until LSU's John Isaac hit a baseline jumper with 1:43 to go to make it 58-54 and send Johnson into a fist-pumping leap on the sideline.
A Marquette turnover on a play that appeared to deflect off LSU's Anthony Hickey led to two more free throws by Turner to make it 60-54 with 1:19 to go, and the 7-foot Hamilton wrapped it up from there.
Early on, it looked like Marquette might run LSU out of its own building. Crowder scored the game's opening basket and eight of his points in the first 3:01, before LSU had even scored a point.
Soon after, Johnson subbed in the seniors and the Tigers quickly clawed back into the game.
Crowder converted a 3 as he was fouled into a four-point play, briefly pushing Marquette's lead to 20-15, but LSU responded with six straight points and took a 21-20 lead when Warren scored inside with 7:50 left in the half.
Warren followed that up a few possessions later by soaring into the paint for a one-handed putback jam, clenching his fists in front of his chest as he came down while the student section behind the basket went wild.
LSU held Marquette without a field goal for a span of 7:59 before Junior Cadougan's inside basket pulled the Golden Eagles to 26-23 shortly before halftime.
By then, it was apparent Marquette would have to work for everything it got.
"We're going to handle this loss as men," Crowder said. "We're not going to handle this like immature people. We're going to handle it like men, go back, look at the things we did wrong and fix it. Hopefully guys step up to the plate and fix the problem."