Felix leads Alabama to upset over Marquette
San Diego, CA (Sports Network) - Jean Felix scored a career-high 31 points and Ronald Steele added 23, as Alabama topped Marquette, 90-85, in an Oakland bracket first-round game of the NCAA Tournament at Cox Arena.
Jermareo Davidson racked up 21 points and 12 rebounds for the 10th-seeded Crimson Tide (18-12), who will face second-seeded UCLA in the second round. The Bruins hammered Belmont 78-44 later in the day.
Dominic James delivered 20 points and Steve Novak had 17 for the seventh- seeded Golden Eagles (20-11), who fought back from a 15-point deficit late in the first half to create an exciting game on a day filled with apprehension and anxiety in San Diego.
The start of the contest was delayed by an hour and 10 minutes because of a threat of suspicious activity that caused the evacuation of Cox Arena during the morning.
During a pre-game security check, two bomb-sniffing dogs were alarmed by a vendor cart inside the stadium around three hours before the scheduled tip. The building was immediately cleared and both teams were sent back to their hotels before authorities determined the arena to be completely safe.
The Crimson Tide drained 12-of-23 attempts from beyond the arc, with Felix knocking down a school-record eight three-pointers in 11 tries.
"That was the good of Jean Felix," said Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried. "I think in his last two games he was 2-of-15 from the field. Today's some of the best we've seen from him. He did a great job shooting the ball."
Marquette roared back in the second half and took a 65-63 lead on a James three-pointer with 9:16 remaining, but Alabama countered with an 18-6 run to build a 10-point cushion with under five minutes to go.
Felix answered with a trey on the ensuing possession to put the Tide back ahead and Steele later buried back-to-back threes to stake Alabama to a 74-67 advantage with 7:21 to go. The margin reached double digits less than three minutes later when Richard Hendrix scored inside to make the score 81-71.
"We knew (Marquette) was a good team and they could make a run," said Steele. "That's why I'm so proud of this team, because we kept fighting throughout this game."
The Golden Eagles again rallied, as Novak hit consecutive threes to pull his team within 84-83 heading into the final two minutes. Two James free throws after a Davidson bucket cut the deficit to 86-85 with 54.6 seconds left, and Felix turned the ball over on the inbounds to give Marquette a chance at the lead.
However, Novak missed a turnaround jumper and Steele hit two foul shots for a three-point edge with 19.3 seconds to go. Novak then misfired on a three- pointer on Marquette's next possession and the Tide's Brandon Hollinger sealed the win by making two from the stripe.
"We couldn't have gotten a better look and we couldn't have had a better guy taking the shot," said Golden Eagles head coach Tom Crean of Novak's final miss.
Felix was near-perfect in the first half, as the senior wing made five treys and poured in 17 points over the opening 20 minutes to fuel Alabama to a comfortable 44-30 lead.
Marquette then outscored the Tide 13-4 to start the second half and closed the gap to 48-43 on a James three-pointer less than 3 1/2 minutes into the frame.
After another triple by Felix, the Golden Eagles scored the next six points, with Jerel McNeal's baseline jumper with around 15 minutes to go cutting the lead to 51-49.
Marquette went ahead for the first time since the game's early stages after Ousmane Barro's dunk off a Wesley Matthews steal gave the Golden Eagles a 60-59 edge with 11:20 left.
Felix was averaging just 8.1 points per game coming in...Novak finished 5-of-9 from three-point range...Marquette was making its first NCAA appearance since Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade led the team to the 2003 Final Four...Alabama, which is making its fifth straight NCAA appearance, improved to 13-6 in first- round games...Crean's wife, the former Joni Harbaugh, is a cousinof Gottfried. She is also the sister of former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh...In the only other meeting between the schools, Alabama earned a 57-55 decision in 1956.ALABAMA MARQUETTE