CLEVELAND (AP) — Darius Johnson-Odom started the party on the court. Buzz Williams took it into the stands.
Johnson-Odom’s 3-pointer with 27 seconds left snapped a tie and gave Marquette a 66-62 win over Syracuse on Sunday night that put the Golden Eagles into the NCAA tournament’s round of 16 for the first time in eight years.
The 11th-seeded Golden Eagles (22-14) had the winning basket set up by one of Syracuse’s 18 turnovers. Dion Waiters’ pass went long and Scoop Jardine’s jump to grab it resulted in an over-and-back.
Johnson-Odom delivered for a 62-59 lead and Marquette is moving on at the expense of its Big East rival. Marquette will play No. 2 seed North Carolina (28-7) in the East regional semifinals Friday in Newark, N.J.
The Golden Eagles are in the round of 16 for the first time since Dwyane Wade led them to the Final Four in 2003.
This was the second straight early exit for third-seeded Syracuse (27-8). The Orange were a No. 1 seed last year and lost in the round of 16 to Butler.
Williams, Marquette’s emotional coach, broke into a delirious celebration. He hugged his players, ran to press row and pounded the table. He pumped his fists toward the fans, then over to the seats and gave his wife and family a long, emotional hug.
He couldn’t stop smiling as fans chanted his name and broke into the traditional “We are (clap-clap) Marquette!” cheer.
Williams had 40 minutes of emotion bottled up because neither team could ever shake the other. It was a typical bruising Big East battle that could have been played at the Carrier Dome, the Bradley Center or Madison Square Garden.
Cleveland, though, is the setting for Williams’ greatest coaching triumph.
Johnson-Odom scored 17 points and Jae Crowder had 16 for the Golden Eagles. Marquette beat the Orange in nearly every important category, from free throw shooting (19 for 23 vs. 5 for 7) to rebounding (30-24) and steals, assists — on it went.
Marquette was one of a record 11 Big East teams to make the field — and the most scrutinized. With 14 losses and a 9-9 record in conference play, the Golden Eagles were a shaky pick when the brackets were announced.
Who’s counting them out now?
The Orange, who were swept 2-0 by Marquette this season, saw their season come to a stunning end yet again. Waiters scored 18 points and Kris Joseph had 12, but no one else had any kind of offensive impact.
Rick Jackson, the Big East defensive player of the year, struggled in his final game for the Orange. He had seven points and four rebounds, numbers way below the double-double he averaged during the regular season.
After leading 19-9, Syracuse went into halftime down three.
For the next 20 minutes, no team could force an inch of breathing room. Waiters scored two straight baskets for a 46-41 lead, but Marquette’s speed and quickness never let the Golden Eagles fall too far behind.
Syracuse lost guard Brandon Triche for most of the second half with a bruised tailbone. And the Orange got hurt on turnovers.
Crowder’s 3 with 2:26 left tied the game at 59.
That’s how stayed — until Johnson-Odom set off a party.