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The Journal Gazette

  • Davidson forward Jake Cohen walks off the court after Davidson's 59-58 loss to Marquette in a second-round NCAA college basketball tournament game Thursday, March 21, 2013, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Thursday, March 21, 2013 8:38 pm

Davidson blows late lead in 1-pt loss to Marquette

By GARY GRAVESAP Sports Writer

Davidson tried to do everything it could to close out an upset of No. 3 seed Marquette in the NCAA tournament.

What the Wildcats failed to do was close in defensively on Vander Blue, whose driving layup with a second remaining capped the Golden Eagles' 59-58 comeback victory Thursday in a game that Davidson had in its grasp.

The 14th-seeded Wildcats squandered a nine-point lead with less than seven minutes to play, snapping their 17-game winning streak and ending their hopes of making another deep run in March. But the way they were eliminated was what bothered players the most.

"You can tell by our faces we're not too happy about it," forward Jake Cohen said. "It's just devastating."

Leading 49-40 with 6 1/2 minutes remaining, the Wildcats (26-8) answered Marquette's attempts to rally with two free throws each by Cohen and Nik Cochran and one by J.P. Kuhlman. De'Mon Brooks' layup with 41 seconds left made it 56-51 and forced Marquette to shoot 3-pointers if it wanted to get back in the game.

That's not the Golden Eagles' strong suit, but Blue and Jamil Wilson each made one down the stretch to close to 58-57. Then came Brooks' errant inbounds pass that sailed long and set up Blue's game-winning drive past Cohen.

"I got switched onto him and he got by me," said Cohen, who had 20 points. "Hindsight's 20-20. It's really easy to look back now and draw up something different. He made a big play and made a big shot."

Brooks and Cochran both scored 11 for Davidson, making its second consecutive tournament appearance. The Wildcats became tournament darlings in 2008 when Stephen Curry led them to the regional finals as a No. 10 seed.

The comeback spoiled Davidson's upset bid and halted the nation's longest winning streak. The Wildcats entered the game shooting nearly 47 percent from the field, 37 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the free throw line.

Their numbers weren't as good on Thursday, but the Wildcats thought they had enough.

"We emptied our tank today," Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. "Credit Marquette, they made three plays down the stretch."

Early on, though, the Golden Eagles (24-8) couldn't hit from anywhere.

As Marquette was missing 10 of its first 11 attempts, Davidson came out hot, especially from the perimeter. Chris Czerapowicz, Kuhlman and Cohen all made 3-pointers in the Wildcats' 12-2 start.

Davidson's defense was also effective against Marquette's second chances, forcing the Golden Eagles to shoot off balance instead of spotting up. The Golden Eagles regrouped slightly with five straight points, but Cochran answered from beyond the arc to put the Wildcats ahead 15-7 with 12:19 left in the first half.

By halftime, Marquette had closed to 25-23 and the next 10 minutes were tight, with six ties and seven lead changes before Brooks' two free throws put Davidson up 40-38. After Wilson's free throw for Marquette, Tyler Kalinoski followed with a 3-pointer and Cochran added a bank to put the Wildcats up by six, leading to a Golden Eagles timeout with 9:24 left.

The lead stretched to nine with less than seven minutes left, but then came the comeback that Blue will remember for a while.

"All I was thinking was, if I get to the rim, I have to finish," said Blue, who scored seven of Marquette's final 10 points, including a 3 with 28 seconds left. "I'm not ready to go home. I know our team's not ready to go home.

"We got down by like seven, nobody ever panicked. ... Nobody missed a beat. We knew the game isn't over until the clock hits zero."