LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY (TICKER) —The determination of Eric Bush and a sloppy, turnover-filled performance proved too much for Marquette.
Bush turned in his second superb game in as many days, scoring all 17 of his points in the second half as Alabama-Birmingham upset the eighth-ranked Golden Eagles, 83-76, in the Conference USA tournament quarterfinals at Freedom Hall.
The 5-10 Bush, a senior guard, was averaging 8.4 points entering the contest. His driving layup with 1:59 to go erased Marquette’s first lead since early on, giving the Blazers a 75-74 edge.
Bush netted 21 points in the Blazers’ opening-round win over Charlotte.
“None of us are shocked, we knew we could compete with them,” said Bush, who also had six steals. “We knew they were a very good team coming in, but it’s really hard for them to play that many minutes against the way we played.”
Morris Finley scored 23 points and Demario Eddins added 16 for UAB (18-11), which forced 30 turnovers and went 6-of-6 from the foul line in the final 76 seconds.
“They believed, they had no fear,” UAB coach Mike Anderson said. “They put five on the court just like we do.”
Battling foul trouble most of the way, star guard Dwyane Wade was held to 11 points for Marquette (23-5), which lost for just the second time in 18 games.
“We know that we couldn’t play much worse than we did tonight,” Wade said. “We know that we didn’t execute tonight and we have to get back and work on some things if we want to continue to play basketball in March.”
Wade grabbed seven rebounds but shot just 3-of-12 from the field and committed a C-USA tournament record 10 turnovers, three less than his team’s season average. In the Golden Eagles’ 98-87 win over UAB on March 1, Wade went for 26 points and seven assists.
“They were hungry to win and they took advantage of us not being strong with the ball,” Wade said.
UAB faces Saint Louis in the semifinals on Friday.
Finley went 10-of-10 from the foul line, including a pair of free throws that extended his team’s lead to 77-74 with 1:16 to play. After Marquette’s Robert Jackson turned it over by stepping out of bounds with the ball, Bush sank a runner in the paint.
Finley’s steal on the ensuing possession resulted in his hitting two more free throws, then a final two to ice the win with 8.5 seconds remaining.
“I think it was a matter of wear and tear toward the end of the game, (and) we prevailed,” Bush said.
Travis Diener scored 19 points, including the 3-pointer with 2:20 to go that gave the Golden Eagles their only lead of the game at 74-73. Jackson had 18 points and Scott Merritt added 12 and nine boards for Marquette, which shot 46 percent (25-of-54) from the floor and enjoyed a 38-22 advantage on the glass.
“We had our stretches, but there is no way you’re going to win a game when you turn the ball over 30 times like we did,” said Marquette coach Tom Crean, who watched his club’s turnovers converted into 32 points by the Blazers. “We just flat out handed the ball to them at certain times and I don’t think that is characteristic of our team.”
The tournament has breathed new life into the Blazers, who lost three straight to end the regular season. They never trailed in the second half while leading by as many as 10 points following a jumper by Finley that opened up a 61-51 cushion with 11:19 to go.
Marquette’s best moments came early, when a 9-0 burst gave it a 9-2 lead on Diener’s 3-pointer 2:54 into the game.
“We just need to go home and work on some things,” Diener said.