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March 20, 2008

Marquette hands Kentucky rare early exit

MORE: Rivals.com NCAA Tourney Central

ANAHEIM, Calif. When Kentucky's Joe Crawford fouled out with three seconds left in a 74-66 loss to Marquette on Thursday, he drew a standing ovation from the Wildcat faithful and Marquette fans. It was a genuine show of appreciation.

Every time Kentucky looked ready to falter, Crawford scored again. And again. And just kept on scoring on his way to 35 points, which equaled his career high, while the Wildcats cut the deficit to two points in the final minute.

So when Crawford picked up his fifth foul and walked off of the court, the crowd rose to its feet and applauded, and Marquette's Wesley Matthews followed him all the way to Kentucky's bench.

"He put his heart out there on the floor,'' Matthews said after the game. "I told him to keep his head up.''

When Crawford arrived at the postgame press conference, he was barely audible at first, his head hanging too low for his voice to be picked up by the microphone. Moments later, however, his head lifted and perhaps ever so slightly his spirits did, too.

"I'm just kind of sad right now because I thought we had a good chance,'' said Crawford, a senior guard. "But overall, I'm proud of what we did this season.''

What they did, with Crawford leading the way, is rebound from a 7-9 start and extend their streak of appearances in the NCAA Tournament to 17 consecutive seasons. Though it was Crawford's last game with Kentucky and making 13 of 22 shots, including five of eight from 3-point range, made it memorable Marquette coach Tom Crean said he expects to see Crawford again.

Where? Milwaukee, home not only to Marquette, but also the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks.

"He might not be a Buck,'' Crean said, "but there are 29 other NBA teams he could play for.''

MORE: Rivals.com NCAA Tourney Central

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