Published February 18, 2012
HARTFORD, Conn. – Connecticut was hoping to improve its NCAA tournament resume against No. 12. Marquette.
Instead, the Huskies found themselves outrebounded and outhustled by the much smaller Golden Eagles in a 79-64 home loss on Saturday.
"I've got to question a lot of these guys' hearts," said sophomore guard Shabazz Napier, who had 11 points and eight assists. "The simple stuff — allowing somebody to get an alley-oop at the end of the game, just quitting with 16 seconds left — it doesn't look like UConn basketball."
Jae Crowder had 29 points and 12 rebounds and Darius Johnson-Odom added 24 for Marquette (22-5, 11-3 Big East), which won for the 10th time in 11 games.
"It's a jubilant locker room," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. "I'm extremely pleased with our hearts and our instincts and the intellect of our team."
Johnson-Odom and Crowder combined for 29 first-half points as the Golden Eagles ran out to a 43-29 lead.
UConn (16-10, 6-8) cut that to four points early in the second half.
A 3-pointer from Jeremy Lamb and a dunk by Alex Oriakhi helped the Huskies on a 10-1 run that cut the lead to 48-44.
But during the timeout, freshman Ryan Boatright began chirping at Marquette guard Todd Mayo and picked up a technical foul. Two free throws followed by Crowder's 3-pointer brought the lead back nine, 53-44.
"It's just immature," Napier said. "He didn't do it on purpose. They were going at it the whole game. I always tell my guys, they never see the first one. They always see the second one."
Jeremy Lamb had 19 points to lead Connecticut, which fell to 2-3 in the five games coach Jim Calhoun has missed with back problems.
Marquette, which lost 6-foot-11 center Chris Otule in December and 6-8 Davante Gardner last month, both to knee injuries, had just seven scholarship players available and nobody over 6-7. But they outrebounded UConn 33-30, including 20-13 in the first half.
"They're very athletic," said George Blaney, who is coaching Connecticut while Jim Calhoun remains on an indefinite medical leave. "I've never thought that size has anything to do with rebounding. They're very quick to the ball and exceptionally aggressive."
A driving layup by Crowder led to UConn center Andre Drummond's fifth foul, and the free throw gave Marquette a 75-63 lead with just under 3 minutes to play, ending any threat from the Huskies.
Marquette, which has never finished better than fourth place in the Big East, came in tied with Notre Dame for second in the conference. The top four teams get a double-bye in the tournament.
"Winning five games in a row is tough," Crowder said. "UConn did it last year, so it's possible, but with that double-bye you have a greater chance, so that's what we're striving for."
The Golden Eagles have won four of their last five games in Connecticut and three straight. The road team has won the last five meetings between the two schools.
Connecticut beat DePaul by 26 points on Wednesday, but has now lost seven of its last nine games and has won just four times since Jan. 1.
Calhoun has missed eight games so far this season, three because of an NCAA suspension for recruiting violations and the last five after taking an indefinite medical leave with spinal stenosis. The school has said he will miss at least one more game, Monday night at Villanova.
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spine, normally associated with aging and sometimes with arthritis. Calhoun is currently trying non-surgical treatments, and expects to know if they are successful by the middle of next week.
"I don't think we think about it too much," Lamb said. "We do wonder (when he is coming back), but we're just trying to keep going as a team."