Butler Left Feeling Blue
The Big East hopes to see this every year – Marquette and Butler playing two games a year down to the wire. Butler will be the only non-Catholic member of the new 10-team Big East, and after Rotnei Clarke won the earlier game on a last second 23-foot hook, Marquette won tonight to go to its third straight Sweet 16 on a last second defensive stand to win 74-72 behind 29 points by Vander Blue. Butler was 11-2 in the NCAA tournament in the last three games coming into Saturday, having lost only to UConn and Duke in national title games.
Saturday it looked like coach Brad Stevens would make it 12-2 as Clarke picked off where he left off, missing only three shots in the first 22 minutes while scoring 21 points, many from several feet beyond the arc.
When Blue hit a three-pointer to pull Marquette within 36-32 with 19:09 to go in the game, Butler scored a quick basket in response, and then Clarke hit another deep bomb to make it 41-32.
Marquette finally had an answer. Sophomore defensive specialist Derrick Wilson, who chose to play point guard for Marquette instead of running back for Syracuse, locked up on Clarke most of the rest of the night and Clarke would only score one more basket while missing four more shots and turning the ball over twice. Blue also took turns guarding Clarke the rest of the night, and he was just getting started on offense.
Blue hit a jumper with 18:00 to go to cut the Butler lead to cut the Butler lead to 41-34. Two trips later he sthole the ball and laid it in at the other end to make it 41-38. After Clarke’s final three-pointer, Blue had another steal and was fouled at the other end, hitting both free throws to make it 49-48.
After Clarke missed two more jumpers against tough defense, blue drove to the basket to finally tied the game 58-58 with 7:33 to go, then stole the ball 14 seconds later and dunked at the other end to give Marquette the 60-58 lead.
Butler fought back ahead 69-66, and Blue responded with another three-pointer to make it 69-69 with 1:29 to play.
In the final minute, Jamil Wilson blocked a shot by Andrew Smith with 56 seconds to go, then hit two free throws at the other end to make it 71-69 with 48 seconds to go.
Marquette forced another turnover and Davante Gardner was fouled just before firing a pass down the court for a would-be dunk by Jamil Wilson. With the Marquette section chanting “Automatic” during Gardner’s free throws for the 290-pound, 85 percent free throw shooter, but he made only one of two to keep Butler alive at 72-69.
With 15 seconds to play, Roosevelt Jones was fouled – a seemingly good play with the three point lead, however, after Roosevelt Jones hit the free throw and missed the next, and the ball was kept alive by Butler. Clarke took a long three-point shot with five seconds to go but missed everything.
The game appeared over, but Jamil Wilson slipped on the inbound pass from Blue and the ball went out-of-bounds, giving Butler a final chance with two second to play. However, Marquette locked up on every player on the inbound, and Smith’s last second attempt to get off a shot was nowhere near the rim as time expired.
Marquette will face the Miami-Illinois winner on Thursday in Washington.