LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It took a while for Jae Crowder and Marquette to get going.
When they finally did, however, Murray State's hopes of making its first trip to the regional semifinals never stood a chance.
Crowder scored six points during a decisive 14-2 run late in the second half, and No. 3 seed Marquette held on for a 62-53 victory that sends the Golden Eagles to the West Regional semifinals Thursday in Phoenix. Crowder finished with 17 points, 12 in the second half, and 13 rebounds, and Darius Johnson-Odom added 17 for Marquette (27-7).
Isaiah Canaan had 16 points and six rebounds for the sixth-seeded Racers (31-2), who fell just short of their first trip to the regional semifinals for the second time in three years. This one is sure to sting, too, even if it wasn't as gutwrenchingly close as 2010.
Murray State lost to Butler 54-52 in 2010 when Gordon Hayward forced a Canaan turnover with about 10 seconds left. The ball rolled into the back court as time expired.
The Racers have come a long way since. They won their first 23 games of the season and were the last team in the country to lose.
Marquette had a decided size advantage — Racers coach Steve Prohm joked Crowder and Johnson-Odom were missing spring practice somewhere — but it was out of sync for much of the game. Murray State, meanwhile, got stronger as the game went on, bolstered by a decided "home court" advantage. Plenty of Racers fans made the three and a half hour drive for the game, and Kentucky fans jumped on the bandwagon in a show of state solidarity. When Jewuan Long made a layup to put the Racers up 46-41 with 7:43 to play, the crowd responded with the kind of roar usually reserved for that other Kentucky team.
But Marquette has made a season out of late runs — Villanova, anyone? — and this game was no different.
Todd Mayo made a pair of free throws, and Crowder banked in a jumper off the glass. Davante Gardner, who missed eight games at the end of the season with a left knee strain, followed with a layup and a pair of free throws to put Marquette back in front 49-46.
Ivan Aska briefly halted the Marquette run with a putback, but the Golden Eagles kept right on going. Gardner made another layup and then Crowder drilled a 3, sending the outnumbered Marquette fans into a frenzy. Even the university president, the Rev. Scott Pilarz, was pumping his fist and screaming, "We are! Marquette!"
Crowder made a free throw before Long was able to end Murray State's four-minute scoring drought, but it was too late. The Racers had gone 1 of 8 during the Marquette run, and turned the ball over three times.
Long finished with 12 points, and Ed Daniel tied a career high with 14 rebounds. Murray State shot just 31 percent, including 9 of 35 in the second half.
Donte Poole, Murray State's second-leading scorer, managed only seven points, half his average. Poole was playing with a nose broken by an inadvertent elbow during Thursday's game.