- Thursday, March 20 2008 -
NCAA South Regional First Round (at Anaheim, CA)
Kentucky - 66 (Head Coach: Billy Gillispie) - [Final Unranked by AP]
|A. J. Stewart||2||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
Marquette - 74 (Head Coach: Tom Crean) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Marquette 33, Kentucky 29
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Georgia 56 - 60 OT|||||Virginia Military 103 - 111|
Game Writeup - Written by Darrell Bird; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Crawford's 35 not enough for UK in NCAA
ANAHEIM, Calif. - It was an appropriate, though difficult ending for Kentucky's 2008 basketball season as a heroic effort by senior Joe Crawford nearly kept the Cats' courageous season alive in a 74-66 loss to Marquette in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.
Crawford, who was in tears as the final seconds ticked away, poured in 35 points to nearly lead the No. 11 seeded Cats to an upset of No. 6 seed Marquette. Only 8-of-8 free throw shooting by the Golden Eagles kept UK at bay in the final minutes.
"I came here to win," Crawford said. "That's what I wanted to do. I mean, I'm just kind of sad right now because I feel like we had a good chance and I'm just kind of down right now. But overall, I'm proud of what we did as a team through the season."
Crawford made 13-of-22 field goals, including a strong drive to the basket and an incredible three-pointer from the top of the key to draw Kentucky to within 66-63 with only 38.1 seconds remaining. However, UK would only make one more basket down the stretch Ð a three from the corner by fellow senior Ramel Bradley Ð as Marquette was perfect at the foul line to account for the final eight-point margin.
Kentucky's loss, which marked the first time the Cats have lost an NCAA opener since 1987, was a vivid reflection of this season for a team that simply refused to lose as it rallied in miraculous fashion to secure an NCAA Tournament invite.
"Every single time something happened all eyes came on Joe and Ramel," UK coach Billy Gillispie said. "(The young players) were always focused on Joe and Ramel and they saw strength.
"It's hard to be the measure of strength that they were on a daily basis. They were unbelievable as far as showing a great measure of strength. Everyone knew they were going to have to play like that for us to win and (no opponent) did anything, they couldn't do anything about it."
Crawford scored UK's first seven points of the second half to erase a halftime deficit. But then the Cats went cold as Marquette went on an 18-7 run to take its largest lead of the day, an 11-point advantage at 54-43. That's when Crawford reasserted himself.
The senior from Detroit scored six straight points then passed to Perry Stevenson for a basket that made it 56-51 with eight minutes left and it was going to be anybody's game down the stretch. Unfortunately, the Cats could never get closer than two points and lost for the 11 time in 13 losses when trailing at halftime.
Kentucky, which had struggled in its last outing against Georgia, came out with guns a blazing against Marquette thanks to Bradley and Crawford. The two seniors each scored five points and took all seven shots as the underdog Cats jumped out to a 10-4 advantage in the first five minutes.
However, UK cooled off just as quickly as they covered the next five and a half minutes without scoring a point. Four turnovers were the main culprit as Marquette reeled off a 12-0 run to take a lead they would not relinquish throughout the rest of the first half.
"We knew Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley were outstanding players and they did nothing to change that opinion, only make it grow, but our guys were up to the challenge," Marquette coach Tom Crean said. "We never wilted. We never got that big put-away that we were looking for because Kentucky kept coming back but we made the plays we had to make."
From the point forward, Marquette's lead bounced between five points and one as Kentucky's vaunted defense kept the Cats within striking distance. The Golden Eagles went into intermission shooting only 33 percent and enduring five blocked shots.
Bradley and Crawford, as had become a trend since standout freshman Patrick Patterson went down with a season ending injury, dominated the first half scoring. Crawford had 12 points and Bradley nine to account for 21 of UK's 29 points. Crawford finished with 35 and Bradley had 19, representing 54 of UK's 66.
Kentucky ends the season at 18-13.
Ramon Harris tries to block out Marquette's Lazar Hayward while Joe Crawford looks on
Derrick Jasper snares a difficult rebound behind Marquette's Wesley Matthews. Ramel Bradley is also in the play.
Both Ramel Bradley and Dominic James reach for the ball